Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

The Underpants Trick July 24, 2013

It’s absurd really. But I’ve heard there’s this trick to help people feel less scared of public speaking. Apparently the secret to quelling the fear is for the speaker to picture the audience in their underpants. Or (worse yet) naked. As a thinker of the canine variety, you can imagine my confusion at this alleged psychological strategy. In general, us dogs do wander around naked after all. And I know public speaking is among the most common of people fears, but that too is a head scratcher to me.

All things tangible are among a dog’s greatest fears.Standing Strong Sure, we have our obvious emotional fears – the greatest of which is losing our beloved people. Beyond that, it’s physical things we can touch and feel we fear most. I used to fear people hands and the damage they can do. And leather belts. And going hungry.

I know it’s different for people. It’s my understanding that public speaking is among the most common people fears, right along with fear of the unknown, fear of the future, and fear of change. Fear. In itself its a scary thing. And powerful in all the wrong ways. It can be debilitating, and (worst of all) it is incredibly contagious. So it’s safe to say I fear fear. I live and breathe the words of American president Franklin Delano Roosevelt who challenged “the only thing to fear is fear itself.”

I know its easier said than done, but I think there is something to be said for taking on this philosophy. With heavy hitter fears like fear of the unknown knocking at our psyches, it’s no wonder times are scary. But even in the most uncertain of times, one thing is certain. Change is imminent. The future will come. And it will bring with it the unknown.

Sadly, even picturing the people around you in their underpants (or naked) won’t change these truths. One hundred years can pass and these same basic fears will remain. But its not hopeless. I no longer fear people hands, leather belts, or going hungry because I’ve made the conscious decision not to fear fear. Fear will not be the master of me. Instead, I find comfort in knowing that some things will never change. Sure, the future is scary. The unknown can feel like a rickety bridge over the grand canyon when all you can see is fog. Change isn’t anyone’s favorite thing. But faith is the antidote to fear.

As Lebanese writer Khalil Gibran suggested, “doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.” I know it looks different to everyone, but faith in its simplest form is even more powerful than the negativity of fear. It is unchanging, steady, and offers a light powerful enough to clear the fog away from the bridge. Forget the underpants trick. I’d rather have faith.