In one of my public speaking classes we had a spirited discussion about perfectionism and how the quest to be perfect can derail your public speaking.
One student reported that she was so nervous after stumbling on a word – which was basically inaudible to most present – that she fixated on that one moment for the rest of her presentation. That’s not unusual. Another expressed disappointment with herself because she was nervous in her final presentation. Yet another student said he was haunted by the prospect that he couldn’t live up to his family’s lofty expectations for him. perfectionism and how the quest to be perfect can derail your public speaking.
What did they all have in common? The quest for the perfect can lead us to magnify our mistakes in our mind. It can also lead to closing up for fear that you’ll make a mistake or be less than perfect.
Perfection is rarely human, and sometimes we set the bar for ourselves too high. We have to meet unrealistic expectations, and, in doing so, set ourselves up for failure. To paraphrase Samuel Beckett, “Fail. Then fail better.”
Don’t hold back; rather, punch through the barriers you’ve set for yourself. If you stumble on a word momentarily, don’t let it be a roadblock on your path to good public speaking. Like a little pebble in a path, kick it aside and continue on. Resist the urge to fixate on it and turn it into an insurmountable boulder. Your audience will have long forgotten about it, and most of all, will usually appreciate you for having that most treasured of qualities: fallibility.