Last week, I spent some lazy hours watching old episodes of Say Yes to the Dress. (Men, stay with me; I swear this applies to you, too!)
The show is set at Kleinfeld’s, a famed New York City bridal store that stocks 2000 wedding dresses.
Real women are pretty scarce on TV, but since Kleinfeld’s employs 250 of them and serves 50-100 customers every day, the show in its early, more adventurous days, was a primer on the lives of working women, and on the hopes, dreams, insecurities, finances, and family relationships of American brides.
This is my favorite kind of reality TV. But you may also be wondering…
What Do Wedding Dresses Have to Do With Public Speaking???
What I learned from my PhD-level perusal of dozens (hundreds?) of women buying dresses was this: The brides who love how they look in their dresses are the ones who genuinely appreciate themselves.
Whatever your size, shape, style, or budget, you have to truly embrace yourself to be thrilled by a dress that reflects who you are.
And the same thing is true of public speaking: You can be the world’s greatest expert on a fascinating topic. You can be warm, intelligent, passionate, and well-prepared. You can have a speech that almost sings as it comes out of your mouth (and if you’ve written it with me, that’s the kind of speech you’ll have).
But you won’t truly appreciate how great you sound giving that speech unless you value and accept who you are.
How Criticism Can Cripple Us
You won’t be surprised to hear that the happy brides who love how they look come to Kleinfeld’s with people who cherish and respect them. Their friends and family give honest feedback, but they don’t nit-pick or criticize. They build the bride up instead of tearing her down.
Many of the public speakers I work with did not have this advantage as kids. (Let’s face it: most people don’t.) They were criticized, they were nit-picked, they were humiliated and belittled — and now they can’t understand why they find it hard to speak in public.
You can see the same confusion they feel writ large on the faces of those Say Yes to the Dress brides who have cruel, belittling, or hyper-critical families. It’s hard to feel that we look, or sound, good when the people who should delight in us have been thoughtless or harsh in their appraisals.
Small wonder that so many of us fear public speaking because we don’t want to be (harshly) judged!
Embrace Yourself! It’s the Greatest Public Speaking Skill
Jane Parsons-Fein, a master hypnotherapist who helps my clients with this issue, says, “If on some level you are anxious that the audience will judge you, they will pick up your fear. They may not know what’s bothering them, but somewhere deep down, they’ll be uncomfortable.
“But if you are at home with your inner self, and your body reflects it, the audience will resonate with acceptance and relief, even when you make a mistake.”
So perhaps the greatest public speaking skill of all is self-acceptance.
It’s fun to have great content, a quick wit, a wonderful delivery, or a polished speech. But you can have all of these assets and more, yet — like a bride who doesn’t see her beauty in the mirror — fail to value and enjoy them, because you aren’t comfortable with yourself.
Many of us want to be “perfect” public speakers. But (particularly since that’s impossible!), isn’t it better to be public speakers who are valued and embraced by ourselves and our audiences, even when we’re not perfect?
In my book, that’s a resounding Yes!
Are You Ready to Embrace Yourself as a Speaker?
Contact me for find out how I can help!