Russell’s Real Lives
Working With Confidence – Anya’s Story
“I’ve followed your work in Friday Magazine for a long time now,” she said in such a quiet voice I could barely hear her. Her face instantly coloured up as she spoke and I could see this was very difficult for her. “But it was actually when I read Sophie’s story on your website that I decided to contact you. Her story about feeling such fear when she had to stand up in front of people and speak connected so much with me, because that’s exactly my problem.”
Anya, a HR manager for a multi-national, explained that she had risen through the ranks to be considered a specialist in her field. This had meant that she was frequently asked to speak at conferences, but had never had the courage to accept, because she was petrified of standing up in front of so many people. “When I started my career in HR, all I wanted to do was be good at my job. I suppose it’s what any career focused person wants. I wanted to do well and worked hard gaining promotion after promotion, but I never gave it much thought that actually climbing the corporate ladder also means you become more in demand to share your expertise and experience with others. I’m fine when it comes to talking face to face or when it’s just one or two people, but I’ve always been shy when it comes to crowds and the very thought of so many people and a hushed room – well it literally sends me into a panic just thinking about it. On the other hand, I feel guilty, because I know sharing my experiences of the job would help others. In a way, I suppose deep down I’m also worried that the more I refuse, the more I look like I don’t care and that’s not true.”
In that first session, we discussed in depth how Anya felt about her own success. “I suppose I’m a bit embarrassed by it. I mean I never think of myself as successful at all. I work hard, I always have, but if anyone pays me a compliment I feel a bit like I recoil away from it. It’s silly really, but I suppose I’ve never felt like I deserved it; like it’s all happened despite me.” It was clear from what Anya told me that despite her high flying career, she suffered from real self-doubt and couldn’t believe anyone would want to hear what she had to say.
Over the next couple of sessions, we worked hard on turning this around, using specialist life coaching techniques and hypnosis to strengthen the positive messages her sub-conscious was sending out. After the third session, I set her some homework. To develop and deliver a five-minute presentation about a topic of her choice related to her work. The only person in the room would be me. “Gosh, although I felt nervous, I trusted Russell implicitly and that was important. We’d worked on strategies to calm my nerves and focus on projecting and slowing my voice so that I could appear commanding, even though I had butterflies in my stomach! I focused on everything he had told me and just did it. I can’t tell you how relieved I felt afterwards, but equally I felt so good about the whole thing. It was a small step but such an important breakthrough for me.”
The next thing on the agenda, was to do the same presentation to a small number of trusted colleagues. “Now that was nerve wracking,” recalls Anya. “I did feel that panic rise on the morning that I was due to do it, but instead of calling the whole thing off, I followed exactly want Russell told me. The routines calmed me and I went in there and did it again!”
A month later and Anya called me to let me know that she had been asked to do a presentation on the implementation of a new procedure and she had accepted. Twenty colleagues and twenty minutes talking time with questions to follow. Yes, she was nervous she said, and I told her to acknowledge those nerves and go through those set routines. I told her I had every faith in her and that she should have faith in herself and her expertise.
“I prepared, I went in there, I did it! No dramas. I was nervous of course, but most people are when they talk. Like Russell said it’s about acknowledging those feelings and doing it anyway. What was so lovely afterwards was the feedback. It was so positive I was walking on air for the rest of the day. It made me feel good to feel like I’d helped others do their job well and it was all because Russell helped me. I can’t thank him enough. I feel a deep-down confidence that I’ve never ever felt before and guess what? I can even take a compliment without running myself down in response!”