Much of the anxiety we experience when speaking in public is self-induced. We see people in the audience as a threat. Most people are not a threat. Unless you happen to be speaking at a psychopath convention, the threat you perceive is all in your head.
Too often, we’re overly concerned with what others think of us. We want people to like us, to think we’re intelligent, competent, honest, and hard-working. And we’re devastated when they don’t. We try to live up to other people’s expectations. Some people are forced into careers chosen by their parents, spouse, or even society. We want to be respected for what we do, and our occupations define who we are to a great extent.
Many people work at a job just to pay the bills and just bide their time until retirement age when they can finally do what they want. That’s not living. That’s wasting time. Sure, we need to earn a living and provide a good life for our families, but we also need to be authentic. When we’re trying to be someone we’re not, we’re not living up to our potential. We only have a brief time on this earth and not living up to your potential can create existential anxiety.
When we devote an abundance of our time to negative thinking and worrying what others think about us, it becomes a bad habit. The way we think affects the actual structures of our brains. The parts of the brain used for negative thinking grows and the parts used for positive thinking shrinks. The brain is like the muscles in our bodies; the parts that are exercised grow strong and increase in size, and the parts we don’t use tend to wither away.