top of page
  • Jeannie Scott

Struggle to Get Your Words Out? How I [An Introvert Actor] Overcame My Mental Block Around Speaking

Public speaking can be butt-clenchingly uncomfortable for us introverts. Here’s what I did to overcome my mental block around public speaking and some useful tips for you too.

We process information internally. We chew on ideas – thinking deeply, it’s hard to articulate ourselves.

I struggle endlessly with word retrieval. Even everyday words, just fall completely out of my head. Leaving me grasping in thin-air, trying to describe my way around this word.

As an introvert you might find it easier to express yourself in writing; a blog, a message, an email, poems, songs etc.

When I did my first live training online,

I knew exactly what I wanted to say. I’d made deliciously detailed notes. Spent hours perfecting my power point presentation. I was ready.

But then it came. The dry mouth. The complete inability to remember really simple everyday words in my own language. The flushed face and sweaty palms. The voice inside that screamed: “they’re looking at you! They’re all looking at you! For god’s sake, say something! You sound like you have no idea what you’re talking about.”

When I first started public speaking, there was a part of me that was definitely hoping that no one would watch it. The coach part of me; the part that knew what I was talking about, and was so excited to share it with my audience, obviously wanted to share it with people. But the introvert in me squirmed in discomfort every time a new person joined.

I still feel much more comfortable writing down my thoughts than speaking them aloud. But a lot of my work as an entrepreneur requires me to do live trainings. I still focus heavily on writing (hence this blog). But I’ve kinda just had to suck it up and do it.

As well as being a confidence coach, I’m also an actor. And you might be thinking: “um, how could you struggle public speaking if you’re an actor. It’s literally your job.” But actually, as an actor, I’m given words to say. I don’t have to use my own.

So, courageous introvert, here are my tips for you, to get comfortable public speaking:

1. Practice, practice, practice – and out loud.

If I went on stage without knowing my lines, my queues, my entrances and exits; I’d mess up the show. For myself and everyone else. And yet, I used to feel like I was ‘cheating’ if I prepared too much for a live training or public speaking.

Now, if I have the time, I use my line-learning skills, and actually memorize most of what I want to say. It’s not always easy, because sometimes I just don’t have the time. But if I do, it’s where I feel most confident. I’m an actor, I’m used to taking someone else’s words and speaking them as my own. Now, I’m taking my own words, learning them, and speaking them as my own.

It’s also helpful if you speak the words aloud. We introverts have a really clear inner voice. So sometimes it can feel like you’ve done enough practice by saying it over and over in your head. But when it comes to speaking it out loud to others, you falter – words fail and your body freezes. Because you haven’t built the connection with your body.

2. Get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.

It can feel scary, and that’s okay. The way you get more confident, is by facing the fear, and proving to yourself that you’re not defeated by it. It’s completely natural to feel nervous doing something that challenges you.

Practice being uncomfortable.

And that doesn’t mean throwing yourself onto every stage, or going live on Instagram every day. It means, practice pushing your own boundaries of what feels safe. Imagine your confidence like a muscle. When it’s not flexed, it weakens. When you wanna build muscle, you have to go to the gym. Even if it does feel uncomfortable the first couple of times.

Don’t worry, I’m not telling you you have to go to the gym.

Take risks and challenge yourself by doing uncomfortable things. Things that you’ve always told yourself you could never do.

Here’s an idea: sit in an ice-cold bath for 30 seconds in the morning. And keep upping the length of time as you get used to testing yourself.

It might sound pointless. Like, what does having an ice bath have to do with speaking up?

Testing yourself and coming out the other side stronger, feeling more accomplished, makes it much easier to move through discomfort in the future; because it won’t feel as daunting.

3. Accept the fear.

Instead of punishing yourself for feeling nervous, and trying all that you can to not feel that way; acknowledge it. Say to yourself, before you start speaking: “I’m nervous, and that’s okay.”

The more you try to ignore, or suppress those nervous feelings, the stronger and more overwhelming they will feel.

Try voicing your nervousness to your audience at the start. It’s a really lovely way to break the ice and show your audience that you’re human too. It can also show a great amount of strength, in being able to share your vulnerabilities with others.

The next 3 are kinda connected. The three things I was taught in my acting training, that would make me a good actor.

4. Harness the power of your breath.

Managing your breath is the quickest and easiest way to feel more confident.

Breath is spirit. Breath is your life-force. And yet, when faced with nerve-wracking situations we so often just forget to breathe.

Our bodies equate holding our breath with fear. Think about it: when you almost get hit by a bike, or trip and stumble, you gasp and hold your breath. It’s a sure-fire way to stimulate your body’s fight or flight response. You’re literally putting your body into a nervous state by not breathing.

Slow deep breaths activate your body’s relaxed state. Instead of waiting until you’ve got yourself into an awful panic; shallow breathing, sweaty and feeling foggy in the head, prep your nervous system beforehand by practicing deep breathing.

5. Try to relax – I know, that’s the WHOLE point right?!

Ground yourself before you start. Before every performance or live speaking event, I take at least 5 minutes to ground myself. We introverts are incredibly cerebral. Which can become even more heightened in times of stress or anxiety.

That’s when you start feeling shakey and out of control of your body; your legs might feel numb; dry mouth etc.

Do a grounding exercise before you start, to help you feel more rooted to the earth and in your body.

Here's an idea: try a mental full-body scan or grounding meditation. Try this 5-min powerful pick-me-up meditation.

Or you can visualise roots growing from the soles of your feet down into the earth, rooting you to the stop.

6. Focus on 'the other' - don't make it about you.

In my acting training, I was always told to focus on the other. Meaning, get out of your own head and put your focus on the other person in the scene or the audience.

If you’re about to speak in front of an audience direct your focus to the people you’re speaking to.

What do you want them to do, as a result of what you’re saying to them?

What would you like to move them to do?

When you’re focused on the other person/people, it takes you out of your own head. It quietens that voice inside that might tell you ‘you look silly’ or ‘you obviously don’t know what you’re talking about.

And that’s how I, an introverted actor, overcame my mental block around speaking in public. I will always prefer writing to speaking.

But I’ve come to enjoy speaking publicly so much more. I’ve let go of the expectations I had for myself that it ‘should be easy’ or ‘I can’t make mistakes.’ I enjoy the connection aspect that that speaking directly to an audience provides. I loved it as an actor, in character. And I really appreciate it when I’m in my role as a coach and teacher.

If you’re an ambitious introvert struggling to feel confident in an industry traditionally seen as extroverted, then I’d love to meet you. Come over to Instagram and say ‘hi’. Let me know what you do and how you’re doing it as an introvert.

You might like:

bottom of page