AIBU to say I just can't do it (work/anxiety/presen tation related)

(33 Posts)
Namechangingnorma Fri 26-Apr-13 22:22:50

Keeping this as brief as poss and have name changed due to being a little ashamed. I am 3 weeks into a new job, new company. I hold a relatively senior position in a relatively specialised area. It is going really well so far and my boss and the company directors seem happy with my performance.
As part of my normal job it is not required for me to present to large audiences, if it was I wouldn't have gone for it. i am really good at what I do but I have a total phobia in regards to presentations, way past normal scared, it induces full on panic attacks, have had to have large quantities of valium to do it in the past (did ok). In real life I come accross as terribly confident and togetherso no-one would really guess how I feel. My boss asked me a couple of days ago to stand in for her in a presentation in a weeks time that she can't attend. knowing what I need to present I assumed it would be 5-10 people around a table which I would be nervous about but could manage. However, I have been informed that it will be a very large audience and I have gone into meltdown. I am trying to establish what they mean by large but if they come back and say 20+ people I just don't think I can do it. AIBU to come clean to my boss?

HoHoHoNoYouDont Fri 26-Apr-13 22:29:21

YANBU - I would not take a job if it required doing presentations. I am exactly like you, the thought of it makes me want to pass out! You should tell your employer and don't let her dismiss the issue as 'just nerves'.

It may be a good time however to look at getting some help to overcome it. Perhaps I should follow my own advice grin instead of running every time I hear the P word!

ParsleyTheLioness Fri 26-Apr-13 22:30:44

No, tell her. Not part of the original job description, so YANBU. It may be that hypnotherapy or something would make you feel better about it, but in the meantime take the pressure off yourself.

Namechangingnorma Fri 26-Apr-13 22:32:43

Thanks :-) I have tried everything, hypno-therapy, valium, normal therapy, I have done so much and forced myself over the years but I am at a point in my life where perhaps I don't feel the need to be Miss Invincible anymore, I am also not as ambitious as I once was and have taken a £10k paycut to do this job.

Namechangingnorma Fri 26-Apr-13 22:34:05

i did originally say 'no problem' because my perception was it was going to be totally different to how it now appears.

LeChatRouge Fri 26-Apr-13 22:34:51

Is there someone else within your team that can deliver the presentation? Some people have no qualms at all about presenting. Is it actually in the job description? Did you know before now that this might happen?

I guess you could have a meeting with her on Monday and just say what you have said here. I wouldn't want part of a job to affect any of my reportees health, if I were your boss I would work towards a solution with you.

Namechangingnorma Fri 26-Apr-13 22:41:38

Le Chat, I am the most senior member of the team so probably not. No, not in my JD, I am required to regularly present to small groups, be in high conflict situations, negotiate and make money for the business, none of which I have any problem with at all. It's stand up presentations I have an issue with. it doesn't really make sense but it's just the way I am wired. i think I am more accepting of my weaknesses 10 years into my career.

MagicHouse Fri 26-Apr-13 22:42:23

I think you should just be very honest.

I used to be the same as you - I actually had a full blown panic attack in the middle of giving a presentation once. Strangely enough I'm ok now, though I do get a bit nervous. I think it's through doing so many and realising it's ok really.

I did have counselling and remember talking about it - my counsellor said "what's the worst that could happen" and I remember thing "I'll have a panic attack and rush out crying"...... which oddly enough gave me no comfort whatsoever!

I think from where I am now, I would probably say, force yourself to do them, as it's lovely not to be in that position any more, even though it was really hard getting to this point. But having said that, do it in your own time, and for now, just be honest about how you feel.

Namechangingnorma Fri 26-Apr-13 22:49:55

Thanks Magic, I too have had a full blown panic attack, I just froze, it was a number of years ago now. Horrendous though. I have forced myself and been ok (with a lot of valium) I just don't seem to be able to get over it, I have invested a lot of time and money in trying. i so wish I could do it. I am going to try and further establish the set-up / audence etc on Mon and if it is full blown auditorium style I am just going to have to talk to my boss. I am so scared it's going to put me in a bad light though, I hate to show any weakness.

specialsubject Fri 26-Apr-13 22:53:36

no-one wants to see you fall on your arse - not your boss, not the audience and not you.

have you had proper training in how to present? I did and it made a big difference, although I didn't have a phobia. It will fix faults, show you what to do and what not to do and make you look gooooood.

anyway, ignoring this won't make it go away so book a meeting with the boss, explain the problem and say that without proper training and help you can't do this. Same as many other things.

MagicHouse Fri 26-Apr-13 22:56:08

What is it that really bothers you about presentations? Over the years, I think that for me it was thinking that I never had anything worthwhile to say, and that people would be judging me (ie self esteem/ self confidence). I think the reason I can do them now is because I finally believe I do know what I'm talking about! But it took about ten years and lots of panicking to get there!
I do know that where I work, admitting to people how I felt was the first step in getting over it. I found pretty much everyone was really supportive, and that actually most people hated presentations to some extent, which did help (though I do realise that a phobia is a very different thing.)

Namechangingnorma Fri 26-Apr-13 22:58:13

Hi Specialist, yes I have had all the training, Its not that I don't know how to be engaging etc etc I am great (if i di say si myself) at charing meetings etc etc, its the stand up presentations that is a full on phobia!

Namechangingnorma Fri 26-Apr-13 23:00:35

Magic, I am actually really confident in my ability to do my job and probably one of the most exoerienced in my field, it's not a lack of confidence in knowing what I am talking about, my body goes into full on fight opor flight mode and I am phobic about doing something to embarress myself infront of the audience.

Namechangingnorma Fri 26-Apr-13 23:02:27

i don't mean to sound arrogant, it's just i am trying to get accross it is a totally irrational phobia and not related to my ability to do my job I suppose, I have just felt tearful all day at the prospect and all I could think was 'my precious weekend is going to be ruined by worrying'

MagicHouse Fri 26-Apr-13 23:07:40

I had a couple of different types of counselling. Have you tried CBT - it stops the cycle of worry (if you get a good counsellor). Basically your thoughts spiral when you panic, but CBT trains you to step in and stop it at the start. The other counselling I had was psychotherapy - looking at your past, and how it has shaped you as an adult. I had one followed by the other (CBT last). Took years, but it worked!

greenformica Fri 26-Apr-13 23:08:11

Try Andrew Johnson's public speaking meditation/app if you haven't already?

efcmcr Fri 26-Apr-13 23:09:42

I know you said you've taken valium in the past, but I honestly think you'd be better speaking to your GP about beta blockers, they were prescribed to me for other reasons, but a side effect was that they remove any nervous tremor from your voice and allows you to speak clearly, which breaks the "i'm nervous/they know i'm nervous" cycle.

Namechangingnorma Fri 26-Apr-13 23:12:22

thanks all, I will try some long term CBT I think, I have tried hypno as a quick fix, have been prescribed beta blockers and didn't find they helped unfortunately

YANBU to get out of this one, but I think YABU to expect to get out of presenting forever, if you are a senior manager.

I have gained a lot from joining Toastmasters - a very friendly environment to learn good speaking skills. Do you have one near you?

ElectricSheep Fri 26-Apr-13 23:13:26

I think you've got 2 choices here OP - either fess up and avoid all presentations like the plague or force yourself to do this one and then ask, yes, ask to do them as often as possible to break out of your phobia.

Just doing them occasionally to cover for someone is surely the worse of all worlds. You have my sympathy OP. I've actually turned down 2 otherwise great jobs this year because they included a lot of presentations. Like you I am confident in my abilities but just hate them with a vengeance. Although when I have done them they've gone well and I felt really proud of myself for getting through it. But it's exhausting making yourself do something that is so scary. Just decide not to think about it now. Give yourself an hour on Sunday morning to decide then forget it until Monday.

Have a relaxing weekend OP.

Salmotrutta Fri 26-Apr-13 23:16:44

Would it help to gather a small group of work people (who you trust) to practice in front of, in a proper, formal setting?

Ask them if they will listen to you run through it a couple of times?

It might help you settle - and at least give you the opportunity to run through it? And practicing in front of an audience really does help.

Would any of your colleagues be in on the actual presentation - because they could be friendly faces for you to speak towards.

Namechangingnorma Fri 26-Apr-13 23:19:27

i think its added more pressure to be presneting the strategy of the company to another business when I am only 3 weeks in, But whatever the scenario I would be in bits, yes it is a senior position but I have always avoided going to the next level up where presenting would be essential because I just don't want to put myself through it, or can't.

Namechangingnorma Fri 26-Apr-13 23:20:44

No, none of my colleagues would be there, the presentation isn't written yet, needs to be done ealry next week

MagicHouse Fri 26-Apr-13 23:21:32

Then I think you should, at this point, be honest and say you can't do it, and why. If it's not part of your job description then it shouldn't be a problem. But definitely go for some counselling to try to get to the bottom of it.

Salmotrutta Fri 26-Apr-13 23:26:32

Right, before becoming a teacher (and audiences don't come much worse than teenagers!!) I cut my presenting teeth on giving talks at seminars, department meetings, conferences and suchlike.

It was hellish at first - most people are nervous wrecks until they have stood up on their hind legs and presented several times - and the nerves never really leave. They just calm down a bit!

You are not alone, honestly.

The more you do it, the more you will be able to "visualise" a successful talk. And that will help you become more comfortable with the whole thing.

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