Butterflies won’t kill you

For me, the first steps to the podium are always the heaviest ones. Looking at all the people I will be speaking to, their expressions a mixture of disinterest to sympathetic smiles, I feel like throwing up my lunch from extreme nauseating nervousness. My hands and feet feel cold, but my face feels like fire.

The butterflies in my stomach make the words that escape my mouth sound like I can’t speak English. I often have to stop and catch my breath. I literally feel like bashing my head against the whiteboard out of pure frustration.  

When it’s time to do the walk to shame back to my seat, all I want to do is go home, sit down, and bury my embarrassment with a large tub of ice cream. 


This was a small section of a paper I wrote my senior year of high school (that amazingly I still have saved on my old computer). It was the last quarter of high school and my teacher decided to assign a reflection essay based on the topic: “What are you going to work on the most in college?”

For me: The ability of speaking up. And not destroy myself doing it.

Chris Anderson from the Harvard Business Review summarized the art of presenting so thoughtfully. Here are some of his points:

  • Frame Your Story: Engage the audience
  • Plan Your Delivery: Practice, Practice, Practice
  • Develop Stage Presence: Look Confident, Be Confident
  • Plan the MultimediaRemember sometimes simple is beautiful
  • Putting It Together: Don’t rush it.
  • Finally: Different isn’t a bad thing.

So this isn’t going to be an entirely inspirational story, because I still feel like dying whenever I go up in front of a crowd.

But it has been four years, since I’ve written that essay that completely beat myself up for my incompetence in public speaking.

Four years of constant practice. And four years to think about how someone as nervous as I can give an audience a killer presentation.

And out of those four years, I discovered something recently that has helped me dramatically.

It is okay to be nervous. The butterflies won’t kill you.   


One Comment Add yours

  1. yunshu says:

    Thank you soooooooo much for posting this article and sharing the small section of a papering your senior year of high school. I am touched actually. For me, as an international student, speaking up in English is not that easy. We can perhaps complete a public speech successfully in our mother language. We can express what we want in mother language. But it is hard to speak thoughts out immediately in foreign language because you perhaps need to think and translate firstly. You said, “the butterflies in my stomach make the words that escape my mouth sound like I can’t speak English.” This is my last year of collage but when I do a presentation, I still think that I cannot speak fluently and present well just like “I cannot speak English”. I totally agree what you have suggested about practicing. That is way too important. Different isn’t a bad thing. It is okay to be nervous. The butterflied won’t kill you. So true. I really appreciate for this article.


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