What I Learned about Energy from Public Speaking

I recently spoke to a large group of people on a topic that I find fascinating and love to educate others on. The talk went well and I could tell by the laughter and chatter that people were connecting with what I had to say and with each other. In my head I knew I should be happy with how things went, but instead I felt down and depleted for a few days. 

I came up with a ton of reasons why I was tired. I had been given short notice about presenting and had to cram to prepare. I was juggling several different projects at once. I ate a big meal that left me feeling sluggish. I found a lot of ways to rationalize my fatigue. Still, there was something lurking beneath the surface that wouldn’t allow me out of this funk. So, I decided to look at it from an energy perspective rather than just logically. 

Energy is a weird thing. It’s a constant presence in our lives, whether we see it or not. It ebbs and flows, impacted by other things like the people around us or the environment we’re in. And our own energy has the ability to impact others.

Once I shifted my focus from logical reasoning to the less familiar flow of my energy, everything became clearer. Yes, the drain on my energy was partly due to cramming, juggling, and overindulging. The underlying issue that I hadn’t yet faced was just how far I had pushed myself outside of my comfort zone. 

I prefer to work in small groups or one-to-one. It’s just more aligned with my personality and my strengths. Presenting in front of a large audience feels like jumping into shark-infested waters and trying to perform a water ballet. As calm and composed as I may appear on the outside, inside my heart is pounding and I’m certain the sharks can hear it.

I also see myself as a lifelong learner but presenting to a group automatically casts me in the role of the expert. That makes me feel like an imposter trying to hide in plain sight. I had powered through with the rationalization that I know what I’m talking about and had useful information to share. But I hadn’t been honest with myself about just how far of a stretch it is for me to take center stage. I had voluntarily thrown my quiet, introverted self into the spotlight in front of 150 people. No wonder I was exhausted! 

We can’t rationalize our way out of everything. Sometimes we just need to stop, turn inwards and pay attention to where our energy is flowing. For me, that meant doing the following:

  • Acknowledging just how tired my body felt and taking care of my needs – I felt like I could have slept all day, when 6 hours is normally all I need. Once I realized I needed a break, I took some things off my plate, freeing up some time to rest.
  • Getting curious about what I was feeling – My tendency is to power through. Essentially, that means ignoring my body’s cues. Approaching my energy with curiosity allowed me to appreciate that I had just put myself through an extremely trying situation. It helped me recognize that I had used more emotional energy than physical energy.
  • Looking for the lesson – I could just say “I’m never doing that again!” but that seems like giving up and limiting my own possibilities. When I looked for the lesson, I learned that in the future I need to acknowledge that public speaking is like participating in an emotional race and that I should give myself more space to recover afterwards. I also learned that as big of a challenge as public speaking is for me, I can do it. It will just take time and practice, like preparing for an actual race. 

I wish I had learned years ago how much powering through meant ignoring my body’s messages and not honoring who I am or what I need. I’m certain I would have been more balanced in every way – how I managed my stress, how I showed up for others, and most importantly, how I showed up for myself. It’s taken time and intentionality to open up that line of communication with myself. And it all starts with asking “What is my body telling me today?”

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