The Wednesday Wondering – What do we have to be nervous about?

Welcome to our first Wednesday Wondering of the new format i.e. a monthly rather than a weekly wondering.

Although I would absolutely love to make writing my career, I need to work full time to pay the mortgage and the bills. For most of my working life, I’ve been in Human Resources in training and/or recruitment roles. I’m currently a Learning & Development Advisor for a food manufacturing company. One of my favourite parts of this role is supporting staff members who have some development needs. Recently, I’ve been coaching someone on presentation skills. This individual is actually a very confident presenter but wanted to work on his presentation content and how to keep his audience interested in his message. However, most people I’ve coached on presentations before are really nervous about standing up and speaking in front of others. A Forbes survey in the USA a few years back revealed that, next to dying, public speaking was the biggest fear people had.

My question to The Write Romantics this week is therefore:

What makes you nervous and why? When was the last time you were really nervous and what did you do (if anything) to overcome the nerves?

Here’s what they said:


P1050475Helen R says …

I get nervous flying. The flight from Australia to the UK takes 24 hours and I do my best to tackle the nerves by reading, watching movies and shutting my eyes whilst I daydream the time away. This usually works until there is turbulence which reminds me if where I am, or when I think of recent events involving air travel. During my recent long haul flight I read Hazel Gaynor’s “The Girl Who Came Home” and lost myself in that world for hours 🙂


Jay says …

What makes me really nervous?  I suppose it’s the things where I am most bothered about the outcome.  Job interviews, if I really want the role, opening up emails from publishers about novel submissions or getting feedback from others about whether I am ‘good’ at something or not.  All of those things make me nervous to varying extents.  Sometimes public speaking does too, but only when it’s about *me*.  As a lecturer and Chair of multidisciplinary meetings I can be über confident, because it’s professional not personal, but when I have to speak about myself… not so much.  I always think of it as being a bit like Worzel Gummidge, for those of you who remember, and putting on a different head!

However, it is probably the single most important thing in life that makes me most nervous – checks on my health.  Having been diagnosed with cancer in November 2010, I have to undergo six monthly check-ups, which shred my nerves.  I watch the radiographer and consultant’s faces when they are carrying out the tests and imagine that they are looking at me with sympathy and that I’m doomed!  I’m getting a bit braver and went for my last check-up without taking someone’s hand to hold (usually hubby or my mum), but I am not sure I would do it again, as the waiting outside the scanning room was torture.

Things I do to make it better?  Forgetting about it for the six months, in between visits, is the best that I can do.  Oh and hubby hiding the appointment letters until the last minute, so that I don’t have to think about it for too long.  It’s a lesson in life though… next time you’re nervous about that job interview or bit of public speaking, ask yourself this – “what’s the worst that could happen?” – and remind yourself that, whatever it is, it could be a whole lot worse.


Harriet says …

Enclosed spaces unnerve me, especially lifts. There was a time when I wouldn’t step inside one, not even accompanied. Now I can, but I’m never comfortable. The worst part, beyond the lift getting stuck which would be my greatest nightmare, is that endless moment between the lift stopping and the doors opening. What I have is claustrophobia, of course. It can happen in all kinds of places, not necessarily in small spaces. I don’t like being in windowless rooms, or anywhere I can’t keep the way out within my sight all the time.

P1050477A couple of years ago I had a course of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) at an NHS clinic. I got on quite well and by the end I was sailing up and down in lifts and locking myself in the smallest spaces (yes, I mean public loos!) with hardly any qualms, but it took a lot of practice and concentration. CBT isn’t a cure but it teaches you to replace irrational thoughts with useful ones so that whenever you’re in the fearful situation you have the means to cope. As time has gone on, I’ve become quite laid back over trying to defeat my phobia and now I use a combination of methods to get by. I have the ‘tricks’ my therapist taught me but I also use a tactic which is absolutely wrong in terms of CBT – avoidance. If you continue to avoid a situation, you are fuelling the fear. That’s the theory and it’s true, of course, but I’ve also come to terms with the problem in that I don’t mind that I have it. Claustrophobia is one of the commonest phobias; you hear people all the time saying that they don’t like lifts – you meet them mostly half way up eight flights of stairs – and knowing so many people feel the same kind of makes it all right.


Alys says …

There’s quite a lot of things which make me nervous but I’ll talk about the writing related ones. Going to London to meet my agent was pretty terrifying. Even though logically I knew that they wouldn’t want to meet me if they weren’t interested in representing me it didn’t stop me feeling pretty sick going into the meeting. Looking back now I’m surprised that I managed to get through it without spilling my tea or tripping over the carpet.

I rather stupidly did something that was even harder than that earlier in the year when I read aloud at an event organised by York Writers as part of York Literature Festival. It was held in the basement bar at our local arts cinema. I’d told myself that it wasn’t a very big place and I’d be fine. But when I got there it suddenly seemed massive. And it was almost full with nearly 100 people there. The stage was about two inches off the floor and the lights were so bright that I couldn’t see the audience at all. I read the first couple of pages of Beltane and my hands shook all the way through. I guess it was good experience but definitely one I never want to do again.


Rachael says …

I tend to worry about traveling. If I have a journey to make, I worry about all sorts of things that could go wrong, even though I know they probably never will. I don’t do this when I book or arrange the trip, but a day or two before – but it hasn’t stopped me going yet! The strange thing about this is that I love to travel, explore new places and meet new people.


P1050476And as for me …

It’s one word: confrontations. I can’t bear them. At work, I like to think that I build great relationships with my customers and behave in a way that avoids confrontations but sometimes things are out of my control and someone else does something that means I’m going to have to raise a delicate issue. My stomach does a somersault, my hands go shaky, my heart races and I feel physically sick. Awful. There’s nothing I can do to overcome the nervous feeling; it’s always going to be there in this situation. I think the only way I’d feel better would be if I could cuddle my teddy bear tightly, close my eyes and wish it all away! Unfortunately I’ve had a couple of appalling weeks where I’ve had several confrontations or situations where there could easily be one including a face-to-face one at work and an over-the-phone one with a family member. I’m exhausted as a result!


Please join in and let us know what makes you nervous or any coping strategies you can recommend. You’ll find the comments tag at the end of the post tags below.

Thank you.

Jessica xx


16 thoughts on “The Wednesday Wondering – What do we have to be nervous about?

  1. What an interesting lot of phobias, its nice to know its not just me that has them! My worse is public speaking though I actually have a teaching diploma and have done it loads. I always think ‘I’m going on too long, it must be boring,’ then, ‘it’ll be over in two minutes, what am I going to do then?’ I usually try and adopt a homely approach, pretending I’m talking to a room full of mates and that helps. Thanks for that great post Jessica xx

  2. You hid your phobias well when we met, Harriet, so I think you might have cracked it 🙂 I guess public speaking is a natural fear for most, although I have met plenty of people who love the sound of their own voices so much that they never know when to stop! Great post as always, Jessica xx

    • It terrifies my hubby too. For our wedding, we did the speeches before food so he could relax and enjoy it. Conversely, everyone expected me to do a speech too cos I love presenting but that’s day job stuff for me and I just wanted to relax on my wedding day and let others have the limelight (speaking wise) 🙂

  3. Public speaking is horrendous. I can only remember having to do it a couple of times but it made me feel sick to my stomach. I don’t like enclosed spaces either, Harriet, though I’m not so bad in lifts. I have a lot of fears but my biggest phobia is definitely spiders. Just being in a room with one is unbearable.
    I also don’t like confrontation, Jessica. I think I’m probably a people pleaser. I don’t want to fall out with anyone. Maybe I’m just a wimp!
    I get nervous when people read my writing, of course. No one likes criticism and writing is such a personal thing…it’s like baring your soul sometimes and then being told, “Nope, not good enough. Didn’t like it.” Aaagh!
    I’m also terrified of the dentist’s and even hate doctor’s appointments. *Shudder*. And I don’t like going to the hairdresser’s either. It’s nerve-wracking sitting there seeing your horrible reflection in those huge mirrors while a pretty, glamorous, slim hairdresser looks at your lank locks in despair. Yuk!
    I’m also scared of looking up at the sky at night, which is odd. I love the moon, and I’m absolutely fine gazing up when I’m indoors or in a car and looking through glass, but being outside under all that dark sky terrifies me. I get really scared and get this awful feeling of dread. I don’t like planes flying overhead either. I’ve never flown but I’ve had recurring dreams for about twenty years about planes crashing and it’s all very scary.
    Gosh, look at that list! I’m a total wuss!
    Having said all that, what Jay said puts everything else in perspective. When you’re dealing with such serious stuff you have every right to feel so scared. God knows, having to face that ordeal every six months takes real courage. Well done, Jay, and I hope you continue to get positive news. Puts my fear of spiders well and truly in the shade.
    Great post, Jessica, though it’s made me realise that I’m probably in need of therapy. xx

    • Aw Sharon, I feel like a priest listening to your confession! All of those are absolutely valid fears and are shared by so many. Your sky one does surprise me because of your love of the moon but I can understand that darkness feeling. You’re not a wuss or a wimp; you’re just a human being with all the flaws and foibles so many of us have. And it’s what makes you you … and absolutely fabulous xxxx

  4. Long flights make my palms sweat. I used to be much worse till someone taught me the re-framing technique – i.e. think of something much worse than flying, so that the prospect of sitting on an aeroplane, watching a movie and/or losing yourself in a book seems like a blessing rather than a curse. Believe me, it helps.

    And stage fright. Not so much public speaking, because you’re in control there, but going on stage in a play or show, where you are trapped on stage until the scene is over. You can’t walk off when you feel like it, and the whole cast and audience need you to see it through. That terrifies me and put paid to my stage career – such as it was.

    • Thanks for joining in Rosie. I’m now dying to know what it is that you think of to re-frame your fears away from flying. And poor you having stage fright when you’ve actually been on stage. I train as part of my day job but I sometimes have freeze moments. I had one last week but I just laughed and said “I have absolutely no idea what I was about to say or where I’m up to so bear with me”. Nobody minded. Phew! I suspect an audience at a play may not be so forgiving 😦

  5. Interesting post, Jessica. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t have these little foibles, would we? Nothing wussy about getting in a stew over the small stuff, Sharon. The feelings are the same whether we think they’re warranted or not. Agree of course that Jay’s anxieties are on a different plane and I too wish her continued good health.

  6. I like your thinking Jay…”what’s the worst that can happen?”
    And how sweet of your husband to hide those letters…it’s often the small things that help us a lot 🙂 x

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