~ By Lucille Zimmerman
“Lu-lllllleeeeeeee-na!” Laurie would yell as she came leaping into the university cafeteria. All heads would turn, first to look at her, and then to look at Lulina, the name she gave me. I wanted to crawl under the table.
Laurie was a dance major, which in itself was rare at Creighton University where almost everyone preferred pre-law, pre-med, or nursing. Laurie came from Minnesota, and she loved the musician Prince. She would dance on the bed, with pretend microphone in hand, singing, “… she wore a raspberry beret, the kind you find at a second hand store…”
When I attended The SCORRE Conference last fall, my coach Candie Blankman told me I had Weather-Girl Syndrome (WGS). WGS is when a pleasant person speaks from her throat rather than her diaphragm. Her voice comes out monotone and meek, rather than interesting and confident. Candie also told me if I’m going to act out something such as a phone conversation, I needed to emphasize it. Basically she was telling me to “go big or go home.”
More and more, I’m learning that all speakers should stop worrying about humiliating themselves because:
1. Being different is what makes you interesting. It’s how people remember you. Look at all the details I remember about Laurie: Her shelves were piled high with tights, leggings, leotards, sweaters, and ultra feminine blouses. Along the top of her bed’s headboard were at least 20 bottles of designer perfume that she shared freely with me. But the most unique thing about Laurie was her sock collection. Laurie had a pair of anklets to fit any outfit and occasion. She was appalled if my socks didn’t coordinate with my daily attire: “Lulina, here are some red Christmas socks with jingle bells for your hooves.” Laurie nicknamed every human body part with an animal part.
2. There’s no such thing as normal. As a counselor, I meet my share of people who are trying to be perfect. They want to fit in so badly they are desperately trying to be flawless but instead they are perfectly boring. Our uniqueness is the handcraftsmanship of God. When God knit me in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139) he said, “I’m going to give this one square toes and a funny laugh.”
As one of my favorite speakers, Amanda Gore, says, “No one is really thinking about you, because they are so worried about what you’re thinking of them.”
Is your fear of humiliation keeping you from becoming an interesting and memorable speaker?
Lucille Zimmerman is working on a book about self-care for Abingdon Press. She and her husband are celebrating 25 years of marriage and are experiencing the “empty nest.” She has a private counseling practice in Littleton, Colorado and teaches psychology courses at Colorado Christian University. She writes on her own blog and the WordServe Water Cooler. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.