Last fall, HuffPost Live invited me to participate in their livestream to discuss a piece I’d written about my preference for C-section birth. I did not and do not have any idea how many people even watch HuffPost Live, but regardless of the size of the audience, the interview felt like an opportunity I should seize, not just for “growing my platform,” but for myself as an ever-developing human being. If someone considers my ideas worthy of attention, it is incumbent upon me to relish the satisfaction that comes with that kind of validation. Right?
But I was scared. Like really scared. Move-out-the-way-I-gotta-poop scared.
I did not want to do the interview. I always worry when I say things like this that my words will be taken for false modesty, especially since much of what I write has an air of conviction which I do not possess in my everyday words-out-loud life. But I assure you: I did not want to do the interview. I agreed to it though, because that is what you fucking do.
A representative from Huffpost Live called me to do a pre-interview and asked me a few questions about my piece. I soon realized she was auditioning me, so I tried to answer her questions without sounding like I’d just done five thousand burpees. I rambled off topic once and forgot the question she’d asked me. And I interrupted her a few times. I do both of these things in real life too, by the way. I’m tremendously annoying to talk to. I may have said two or three insightful things.
At the end of the phone call, we scheduled a time the next morning to do an internet check. I began to plan my responses for every imaginable question; I reread all the arguments that had gummed up the comment sections of the various places the C-section piece had been published. I read articles in scientific publications. I spoke to myself out loud in front of my bathroom mirror. Got out my mustache bleach. Considered trimming my hair.
Through all this, I felt like I was going to throw up. I called my mom and she gave me a much-needed boost. Reminded me that I am, in fact, smart as fuck. That I am a person who succeeds. I continued my preparations.
Later that evening, I got another email from HuffPost Live. (I swear to god I got the email while I was on the toilet taking a nervous poop.) Even before I saw what the email said, I thought, Please let this be a notification that they’re cancelling the interview. It was. A tsunami of relief flooded my veins.
But if I was so relieved, why did I suddenly feel so sad? Why did I want to cry? I was disappointed, it turned out, but not about losing the interview; I was disappointed in myself. I thought, Is this really who I am now? Is my fear of failure really so profound that I would be happy to lose an opportunity like this?
Am I … a pansy?
I thought of my writer friends who had done radio shows and live broadcasts, how they’d dazzled me with their poise and cleverness. I thought of my regular everyday friends who succinctly defend their ideas in heated conversations. For me, when a conversation becomes heated, rhinos stampede through my chest and I lose about twenty IQ points.
Considering these truths about myself deeply saddened me. At first, I tried to convince myself that I hadn’t always been this way. I remembered times when I’d been brave: the time I flew to Italy and had to figure out the rail system to get to where I was going all by myself; the time I entered a bikini contest; the time I ran thirteen miles in the mud; the time I ate street food in Peru; the two times I gave birth.
I decided I used to be brave but was no longer. I lamented that I had lost something I once possessed.
But then I realized something. None of these incidences of bravery involved talking in front of an audience. I couldn’t think of a single occasion in my life when I spoke in front of an audience and didn’t gobble like a turkey from anxiety. I often get nervous in front of individuals, too. As early as elementary school I can remember a friend saying “How come you talk funny whenever you talk to the teacher?” It was because I was fucking nervous to talk to the teacher. And that’s how it’s always been. Usually, after some time passes, I become comfortable enough to speak my mind without falling into that abyss of anxiety, but my standard modus operandi has always been to either warble or just keep my damn trap shut.
Strangely, once I realized I’d never had anything to lose to begin with—that I’ve always been uncomfortable in these situations—I felt better. When it comes to speaking in front of others, I have always been the girl who thinks of the Awesomest Comeback Ever three days later while I’m in the shower washing my hair.
Odds are, I will continue to be that girl. The real difference between my former self and my current self is, now when I get out of the shower I jot those awesome comebacks down and turn them into essays. Sometimes those essays get read and are considered clever and/or relevant enough that someone from Huffpost Live calls me and wants to interview me. And even if I say no, it doesn’t mean I’m a pansy; it just means I have a different way of making myself heard.
But I’m still going to practice “interviewing” in front of a mirror … just in case.*
This piece originally ran on BLUNTmoms.com.
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*UPDATE: A few weeks ago, Huffpost Live contacted me again to appear in a live discussion about the over-medication of children who have ADHD. And I did it! And although I probably could learn to keep my eyes on the camera a little better, I don’t think I totally sucked! YAY FOR FACING FEARS!