Thursday, April 21, 2011

How Do You See Yourself When You Speak?

artwork by Fernando Botero

Self-image is such a hot topic in our world - and it has been since Adam & Eve realized they were naked!

Our planet is populated by people of every size and shape, an infinite combination of facial measurements and features, and voices that range from mousy to screechy to booming. Despite this long lineage of diversity, many of us spend a great deal of time and money trying to change or hide who we are. Too often, the way we perceive our appearance also affects how we perceive our value, and the value of what we have to say to the world.

I've struggled with this over the last few years. I've always limped due to a birth defect that caused my left leg not to grow at the same rate as my left. In 2006, my left foot stopped working altogether, and I went for an upgrade, amputating below my left knee. I still limped, despite hopes that having two legs the same size would fix my gait. Something about a lifetime of my body being trained to walk a certain way, combined with the remaining defects in my upper leg, has doomed me to a life of lurching about. While this is inconvenient, and frustrating for me to watch on film, to me its not the worst part....

It's my Ben & Jerry's belly!

That's what I call it in a few of my speeches, anyway, to get a bit of a laugh. While I'm not MASSIVELY overweight (232 lbs, 5' 9" - wouldn't get me on the Biggest Loser), and in fact have dropped 20 lbs from my heaviest (and gained 20 lbs from my lightest last summer...), I am still FAT. And boy, does it bug me - particularly as a speaker.

I worry about how I look, about falling on stage, about whether the audience is even going to take me seriously when I clearly have so many physical issues. Yes, even after all this time, and all the audiences I've spoken in front of, I worry.

There are things I can do to help - lose more weight, for one. I've been aiming for 199 for the last few years, and never quite get there. Physical therapy for my legs, which won't fix things, but will improve them.

Today's world is full of solutions for how we look - plastic surgery, endless types of exercise programs, infinite diet fads, fancy and not-so- fancy make-up, oils, organic body washes...and that's on top of the old stand-bys: a new haircut and dark clothing with vertical stripes.

But does how we look affect the value of what we have to say? Unless you're preaching the value of fitness, do you need to look like Bob Harper or Jillian Michaels? Yes, we must reflect the values of our speaking, but if your speech is about improving your finances or changing technology, do you really think a few extra pounds (or 100 extra pounds) is going to cost you credibility?

Only if you let it.

The audience may key in on your appearance before you speak your first word, but once you speak, you can control the room. Your confidence in yourself will translate into audience confidence. If you're worried about how you look and how you walk, they will feel it, and they will feel uncomfortable with you.

I'm not going to lie and say image isn't important. As a professional, you certainly want to dress the part, put your best foot, real or not, forward, and make sure your zippers up and you aren't trailing toilet paper from your shoe.

What is more important, however, is self-image - because how you view yourself will directly affect how others view you. If you believe you have value, believe what you have to say has value, your audience will sense it, and be ready to receive value. Regardless of your clothing, your weight, your affectations, your rating on the scale of physical beauty, you will make a difference for your audience.

With a poor self-image, it won't matter if you're Adonis in a three-piece suit. They'll see right through you.

I still want to lose weight. I still want to walk better. You may have aspects about you you want to fix. I won't tell you not to fix them. But know this - no matter what you fix on the outside, you have to fix what's on the inside to Speak & Deliver.

Take a moment and watch this video from speaker
Nick Vujacic - remember, not only are you beautiful,
you have something to say that people need to hear!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...