I Don't Want to Live a Life Without Risk

November 11, 2013

I’m terrified of public speaking. And today, I have to face my fear. 
It's infinitely worth it to face our fears.
When I say I’m terrified, it’s not like I kill spiders with the biggest shoes I own or I hurl myself onto chairs when I see mice, although both of those things are true. 

When I say I’m terrified, I mean it. For me, it's a deeply visceral unease – I feel nauseous like I’ve got morning sickness or the 24-hour flu, with an added dose of heart-pounding anxiety thrown in for good measure. 

But, also like the flu, sometimes public speaking is unavoidable. Today, I’m presenting my final paper to a committee who will then determine if I get my graduate degree in English. It’s a goal I’ve been pursuing for the last five years, and this is the final step.

I’ve tried everything I can think of to combat my fears. Deep breathing. Relentless prayers. Digging my nails into my hand so the small bite of pain distracts me. Nothing works. I’ve thought about imagining the crowd in their underwear, but that actually seems ridiculous and infinitely more disturbing – I usually try to forget that people have bodies under their clothes entirely; it’s kind of like willfully telling myself that my sisters and I were three immaculate conceptions because really, who wants to go down that road? 

I can’t wish my fears away. And I may not ever be comfortable speaking in public. But I can look forward to what will happen afterward (hopefully, graduation). 

And I can take pride in facing my fear, even when everything within me rebels against it. I know it’s not a life-or-death situation, the end of the world or anything, but it’s a big deal to me. 

I once heard a speaker say, “Don’t disdain the small steps. Something that might not be a big deal to you can be a big deal for someone else.” 

And I thought, Exactly. Thank you. Because every time someone else minimizes my terror of public speaking, I think, Sure. That’s easy for you to say. You don’t feel the overwhelming urge to break into tears every time you step on a stage (which I have actually done). You don’t worry that however you act within the span of 90 minutes will determine how someone views you for the rest of your life. 

It might be small to you, but it’s big to me. And there may be something else in life that's small to me, but is big to you.

But here’s what I do know, despite my fears: A life without risks is a life without rewards. And that’s not the kind of life I want to live. 

Is facing my fear worth it? Absolutely. Let's face it -- what have we gained in life without first encountering fear?

Love. Without risking heartbreak and emotional pain, we would never know the reward of loving relationships. 

Children. Without risking the pain of pregnancy and childbirth, the rollercoaster of adoption, or the emotional fortitude necessary to be a mentor, we would never know the joy of children. 

Calling. Be it career or otherwise, without taking risks, we would never know the thrill of being or doing exactly what we were made to do. 

Sometimes it’s hard to see beyond the moment. But when we’re brave, it’s worth it. 


  1. Love this post!
    I remember having to give a presentation in front of my college classmates and peers many years ago. I was so terrified I was unable to speak standing up…the professor allowed me to sit down and field her questions as she took my notes in hand…such grace. I was so thankful!
    Since that time I have stood before audiences large an small to both speak and sing…God does amazing things with willing hearts.
    Love your words, and YES this: "..without taking risks, we would never know the thrill of being or doing exactly what we were made to do." I believe I am about to embark on the adventure of my life, visiting the women in the brothels and showing them what the unconditional love of Jesus is all about. Terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time.
    Saying a prayer for you.

    1. Thanks, Gay! Yes, it's always wonderful to encounter grace in unexpected places (like your college class), isn't it? Praying for you as you journey into brothels, that you would truly be the hands and feet (and heart!) of Jesus! :)

  2. I'm so with you on the incredible fear of public speaking, Kristin! I can't believe what the mere thought of it physically does to my body. When I was working on my MSW, we had SO many presentations to do. It drove me crazy. You are right though- we have to take risks to reach rewards. There is so much growth in risk taking. As you said, it's worth it to be brave :).

    1. Yes, being brave is definitely worth it -- although I wish that meant that I was "over it" when it comes to public speaking. ;) But it's a great tool in teaching us reliance on God, right? :)

  3. Oh Kristin, I can completely relate to this and it's always nice to know we're not alone! Thank you for being brave enough to write this, (and to face your fear)! Hope you were happy with the final outcome ; )

    1. Thanks, Sybil! The meeting actually went really, really well -- I didn't even feel emotional, and (thankfully) passed just fine! Such a blessing to know I'm not alone, though. :)