Thank you for sharing, that was really a brilliant post. I can't say I disagree with any of your points, actually. I was skeptical but I think if you can implement those steps you could probably make a lot of progress with getting over this stuff.
I'm not sure if I buy into the whole Toastmasters pitch, for myself anyway. I just....there is no way, no way in hell I'm ever, ever going to get up in front of a room full of people and give a speech. I have a very difficult time just dealing with meetings at work, even meetings where we're not face-to-face...I mean, even just standing around in a lobby or conference room talking, I get extremely anxious. I just can't identify with that at all but I'm sure it's helped you and I've heard stories from family and friends in which it's really helped them...it's helped them even advance in their careers.
I refuse to do exposure therapy because, well....it's all of my worst fears, usually thrown into a public place, usually in situations I fear the most. I can't do exposure therapy to help my anxiety, because of my anxiety. I think I know what your response would be to that but I still just don't know how you can ever, possibly, say for example....help someone get over their fear of heights by taking them to the roof of a building and then locking them up there lol. I've heard exposure therapy works, for a lot of people. I just can't even get myself to agree to even try. When anxiety is that bad I'm not sure what the next step is or if there even is one tbh.
The steps you talk about implementing make a whole lot of sense, don't get me wrong. And I agree if they help even just one person a little bit it was worthwhile. Much respect to you for how far you've come. They make a lot of sense but for some of us I think they're going to be impossible to implement. I just...maybe I'm too old lol, too set in my ways...I just cannot see myself actually going through them all, there is just no way.
It is worth thinking about though, and thanks for sharing what you did.
Thanks TenYears, your feedback is much appreciated.
I suppose I did not include how Toastmasters ended up playing out for me. It was one of my biggest fears so I thought it would make a good addition to my exposure therapy list. I went to ~20 meetings over the course of 4-5 months. I no longer go because I don't particularly enjoy it (I do lean to being an introvert and the place is full of over the top extroverts). I'm not at a place that I love public speaking but I think I've gone from being terrified of it to now being able to do it if I need to (but still don't like to).
My very first Toastmasters class I had a panic attack by doing nothing more than introducing myself for 15 seconds. I felt way worse after that first meeting, and if anything re-inforced my fear.
I decided to go back, but take a Xanax before. This time I was able to get through it. I went back more and more, taking slightly less Xanax each time and made a point of facing my fear EVERY single time. Any time they asked for voulenteers to come up and do a off the cuff 30 second speech I forced myself to not think, and just put up my hand. I felt that if I ran from my fear it made it worse the next time, but if I faced my fear EVERY single time and experienced situation after situation where the results weren't near as catastrophic as I would envision in my head beforehand I would move forward and the fear would get less each time.
I also made a point after the classes of just accepting and letting go if I did 'poorly', because you can't change the past so not worth worrying about. What I noticed is people weren't acting like they had a negative opinion of me after the times I did poorly. If we were chatting during coffee break they'd just jump into normal conversation as if I didn't just go up and bomb 15 minutes earlier. I think sometimes we forget that people have 50,000 thoughts a day, the least of which have to do with 'us'. We think other peoples opinions matter more than they really do.
In the end, I don't think I'm happier in life going to Toastmasters so I stopped. 99.9% of my life I'm not giving speeches and I don't see the point in going to Toastmasters every week just to get better at the 0.01% of my life I am giving speeches. When they come, I pop a Xanax and am capable of getting through them.
In the end, I do think pushing myself with that was beneficial but I don't think I could have pushed into public speaking very far without Xanax. It''s the one area of my life I'm willing to take pills for and I don't see much problem with that.
I am 100% with you that locking someone with a fear of heights on top of a roof would not help. As I mentioned earlier, I had a panic attack my first Toastmasters meeting and I think if anything that meeting re-inforced my fears. If I would have kept going without Xanax I think I would have done more harm than good going having a panic attack every week.
I don't think people need to implement things as difficult as public speaking to see improvement. Analyzing every day interactions and pushing some exposure therapy just outside someones comfort zone (ex. wearing ugly clothes) I believe would still yield some noteworthy results.