Groundhog Day: I’ve been playing small

“I thought she was going to be good at this. She does dance competitions,” the teachers whispered. I was six years old and cast as one of four main characters, the white queen in the school play. Oh, the shame. The next year they made me a mute bird that ran around a nest of eggs flapping its wings. It firmly cemented my belief that I could perform as a dancer on stage, but I must never speak. I wasn’t good enough to do that.

There’s no easy way to avoid public speaking though. Reading aloud in class, presenting projects in undergrad and group meeting and conferences as a PhD student and beyond.

It was like Groundhog Day.

Feeling anxious in the lead up to it. Over-preparing. Not listening to everyone else just trying to get through it. If I could, I would make an excuse to avoid it. But this keeps us safe and comfortable. It keeps us small.

I’ve done a lot of personal development work over the last few years. I’m at the point where I’ve peeled off so many layers, I am now actively seeking out speaking opportunities.

I know where the fear originates from. The fear of being judged, of not measuring up, needing to seek approval and people pleasing to feel safe. But as I worked harder to gain the approval, this led to the precipitation of high expectations from others. I was anxious I couldn’t meet those expectations.

Welcome the Inner Critic.

Once you have done the work to get to the core of it and peel off those layers there are three key steps you can take to change the outcome. Step 1 is universal to any situation and Steps 2-3 are specific for presenting.

Step 1: Let your Inner Critic feel heard

Our inner critic is that little voice in our heads. The thing to realise about the inner critic is that it’s actually trying to help us. It’s trying to stop us from feeling lonely, unloved or rejected. It just goes about things in rather a self-destructive way.

If you are experiencing anxiety rather than excitement there is fear around what you are about to do. This is perfectly normal. What many of us try to do is tell ourselves, “I’m fine. Everything will be okay.” Your Inner Critic doesn’t believe you. Therefore, it doesn’t work.

Your Inner Critic will step in to protect you. In this case, AVOID SPEAKING. AT. ALL. COSTS. I listened for so many years. Here’s what to do instead.

Dump it all out on paper. Write quickly, this accesses the subconscious mind. Let all the worries flow out onto the paper. Let your Inner Critic really be heard. Usually it comes down to a few key things that you can actually give your Inner Critic.

In this case, my Inner Critic was worried about the material I was going to present. When I’m giving skills training these are facts, no-one can really question it. When it’s personal development, you have no idea how it will land, and it probably won’t sit well for everyone. Having thought this through and accepted it my Inner Critic fell silent.

2. Shift your focus from you to them

In the end, it’s not about you. It’s about the people you are presenting to and how you can help them. Set an intention behind what you are doing which takes the focus off you and your outcomes.

3. Our body language shapes who we are

If I go into the room and make myself small and defeated that’s exactly what I will experience. If I go in there open and expansive the research shows that this increases feeling of power, which in turn increases confidence and decreases cortisol. I’ll be using The Queen PowerTypeTM as my power pose.

If I don’t change my approach, it will stay the same. Groundhog Day.

It takes courage. And there’s no courage without vulnerability.

Sunday 2nd February is officially Groundhog Day. What could you do differently?

Keep opening up,


One of many women stepping up and no longer being small.


PS I’d love to hear if this resonated with you. Hit reply and tell me your story.

PPS Join my Facebook Group, Breakthrough Unleashed for weekly Q&A’s and mini-training or follow me on your favourite platform.

PPS I love this TedTalk by Amy Cuddy, “Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are.” Enjoy!