Last week I stood up in front of a group of people, most of whom I didn’t know, and spoke without a script for about three minutes.
This may not seem like a tall order to many of you, but for me it was a big deal. It took every fibre of my being to break through my resistance and walk the few yards from seat to spotlight.
Why? Because I’m a writer. I enjoy the comfort of the written word. The spoken word is a mystery to me - or at least public speaking is. I’ve been interviewed for TV, I’ve been on the radio, and even given a speech at the famous Oxford Union debating society, but I’ve never stood up like that and spoken my truth. I’ve always had a job title, an eye-catching outfit, a face covered in make-up - and maybe even a wig - to hide behind.
That was the subject of my mini-talk: the fact that I’ve been performing since I was very young, first as entertainment for the family (I used to be wheeled out in front of relatives to sing at the age of two), then on stage with the band I sang backing vocals for in the late Seventies (that’s me above, posing in the backstage dressing room at Dingwall’s in about 1978).
I carried on putting on a good performance, first as a music journalist and then as a player on the London club scene. I performed well in all the jobs I was given to do, and focused on being whoever people wanted me to be.
I managed to hide behind a series of masks for most of my 20s, 30s and 40s, and only started to peel them off when I hit 50. Now I don’t want to perform in that way any more. I want to be authentically me, without dressing myself up, making myself fit in or fulfilling someone else’s fantasies.
Stage one of Becoming The True Me was to qualify as a human potential coach. Stage two is about finding my voice, so I have just enrolled in a public speaking course entitled “Speak like a TED talker”.
If I can get to be even half as good and authentic a speaker as Brene Brown when she gave her TED talk on the power of vulnerability (an incredible 4,831,325 views and counting) I’ll be a happy woman. Until then I’m going to start working out exactly what it is I want to say, what I think people want to hear, stand up and just say it.