Faith,  Stress

Do It Afraid: Public Speaking Through Anxiety, Fear and Nerves


“No Fear,” claims the American lifestyle clothing brand.

“Fear not,” the preacher says. 

“Do not be afraid,” Jesus commands.

Sounds brave. Courageous. Bold. I want that; I’m guessing you probably do too.


Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash


But we’re human. And some of us deal with fear. How we deal with fear is the difference between surviving and thriving. 

One introverted kid says talking to the teacher is too intimidating. Your extroverted self loved your teachers so that doesn’t make any sense to you.

Another can barely ask the waiter where the bathroom is. Come on, dude. Waiters don’t bite.

For one man it might be a fear of being found out. 

Borderline affair? 

Porn habit? 

Crumbling company?

For another it could be crushing debt. If you are not in charge of retrieving the bacon, it might feel natural to throw out a bible verse about faith. And while that might help one guy, it might annoy or infuriate another. 

For one woman it may be a fear of losing a child. If you think you live in a “safe” place or don’t have children, such a fear might not cross your mind. 

For another it could be the fear of someone finding out she’s not everything she claims on social media. 

  • Her coffee table decor looks drooly on Instagram, but no one has ever seen the disaster behind the scenes.
  • She smiles at church but would much rather hide at home. 
  • She and her husband look like they could grace the cover of a marriage magazine, but they can barely stand sharing the same bathroom. 

Fear can do more than paralyze and make us over-analyze. It can alter our personalities, control our motivation and stop us from moving forward in faith.

If you are a Jesus-follower, you probably already know fear is a major topic of discussion in the bible. Scholars disagree about how many times words like “fear not,” and “do not fear,” are found in the scriptures.

At the end of the dignified Christian argument though, does it matter if it’s 83 times or 125? How often must we be reminded of the same thing over and over? 

When I read, “Do not murder,” it sounds like a clear command and I am committed to obeying it. 

But when I read, “Do not fear,” I tend to think, “Well, I’ll try, but no promises.”

For some reason murdering someone falls much higher on the “Note to self: don’t go there” scale than fear does. Why? Because of the consequences? 

Well, duh. Taking someone out causes family, local and lifetime issues. 

Sure, being afraid and wallowing in stress ties up my insides, but nobody’s gettin’ rolled to the local slammer for being overly nervous. 



Does the thought of boarding a plane and listening to the safety talk make you reach for a barf bag and attempt to breathe naturally?

I flew four times in the past three weeks. The experts tell us it’s safer than driving because crashing through clouds doesn’t count as a crash. No traffic at 35,000 feet; just you and your pretzels, folding yourself into awkward positions and trying to keep your drool on your own shoulder.

But focusing on not being afraid of flying can make even the bravest among us remember we are in the hands of a mere human up there in the pointy part of the torpedo. We hope he had coffee, but not too much.

Have you been asked to speak in front of live people? I find it much harder than speaking in front of dead people. Counting my California mission report in fourth grade, two funerals and a retirement party, I’ve only done public speaking five times. 

Cinco. One hand.

Months ago I got asked to speak at a women’s retreat. I said yes, but didn’t realize how inexperienced I would feel. So I practiced my seminar in front of my couches last week and felt pretty good about the outcome.

But then I flew north, greeted 500 women with fake confidence and sweaty palms, and gave them a snippet of what my seminar entailed. Arriving to the Multipurpose Room, getting a mini microphone hooked over my ear and watching women saunter in made my nerves bubble again.

  • I’ve never worn an ear mic before. What if I sniff? 
  • What if I stutter? 
  • What if they laugh at the serious parts and don’t get my jokes? 
  • What if I lose my spot and there’s dead air? 
  • What if I pass around my blog sign up and it comes back empty?

Part of my talk touched on moving to Baja and then moving back, and I challenged my two audiences to move forward in their fear:

“If you truly have a desire to obey what God’s asking you to do but feel scared or nervous, can I challenge you to do it anyway? Move forward afraid, knowing our ridiculously mighty God can handle it and help you. Do it afraid, but do it.”

I stood there taking my own advice but not being super confident about speaking with that many eyeballs on me. I heard my words come back through the speakers, hoping no one knew my comfort level sat at an all-time low.

Well… I take that back. Having my dress flip up on a busy lighthouse cliff ranked pretty high on my uncomfortable scale too. As did making a complete idiot of myself in front of Francine Rivers.


In my second seminar the fire alarm went off. It was not faint.

None of us knew if we should really evacuate, so we stared at each other for a few seconds until someone suggested we move class outside. 

Brilliant. I had no idea if I was still being recorded, but we exited stage right and continued where we left off, under a bridge and next to a bathroom. Super classy.

Felt like familiar ministry chaos to me, and the word “Flexico” (being flexible in Mexico) reigned once again.


Do Not Worry 

I looked up verses in my bible about worry and found it intriguing that one of the subtitles in Matthew 6 is called “The Cure for Anxiety.”

Really? The cure has been there all along? Somebody call the Times.

From the fed birds of the sky to the clothed wildflowers of the field, not even King Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these.

I can almost hear Matthew about to burst with sarcasm. “Ok—let’s revisit the basics, people. You do know your heavenly Father is well aware you need food, water and clothing, right?”

This is the common, NIV version of Matthew 6:34…

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,

For tomorrow will worry about itself.

Each day has enough trouble of its own.” 

But look at the fantasic in-your-face challenge from The Message:

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now,

and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow.

God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”


Same verse–more direct.

Feeling worried about something or afraid of an outcome is normal. But living in a constant state of worry and fear is giving Satan too much power and robbing God of his strength.



When I arrived to the conference my mom handed me this:

“It’s your verse for the weekend,” she said.

Think one of these might need to be your verse for the week? Month? Year? Swipe it in confidence, friend. Then say it back to yourself until you know that you know that you know.

I dare you.


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  • Candace Spong

    Thanks for the encouragement!! I was asked at the last minute to help serve communion one morning at BelPres (large congregation of about 800). I don’t love getting up in front of people at all. But as an Elder, I said of course. As the end of the service came, I got all jelly-like inside. Then that still small Voice very clearly said “I’ve given you the gift of hospitality…will you help me serve supper?” An immediate calm settled in and I served. Love you sweet niece!

    • Carrie Talbott

      Love, love, love this story, Candace. So encouraging! I admire you for listening to the Holy Spirit and then being brave enough to get up and serve. Inspirational.

  • Valerie

    You’re speakin (Dear Editor, I purposely left out the g) my language here! I miss you Carrie Talbot! Thanks for making me laugh and ponder truth at the same time. Proud of you for tackling THE number one fear!

  • Alyce

    Hit the spot. Had a panic attack at age 12 singing a duet in front of 50 adults at church. Frozen! Then avoided public speaking for years by playing sick, lying. Whatever it took to get out of it. Became a teacher. What? Slowly God built some confidence back into me. Don’t ask me to speak in front of 500, but I’ve learned to push myself away from Satan’s lies and toward my identity in Christ. Doing it afraid has given me some of my best moments. And God some great glory! Love your writing, keep it up!

    • Carrie Talbott

      Oh, Alyce… your frozen duet and then avoidance for years sounds heartbreaking. Proud of you for pushing through and becoming a teacher though; that’s awesome. Thanks for sharing your personal story. Inspirational!

  • Susan

    How nice that your post greeted me on a Saturday morning! I could read it in one sitting, no interruption. This! After reading my college son’s post this morning – “Everyday in the world everyone faces their challenges, some harder than others but what is important is how you handle it. Whether you are going to lay down and take that beating or if you’re going to stand up and say not today Satan, not today.”

    Do not fear and God’s gotta win in me. Thanks for being providential encouragement Carrie!

    • Carrie Talbott

      Praise God for no interruptions, eh?
      How funny–I read his post last night! “Not today, Satan. Not today.” So great.
      Thanks for visiting, Susan. Do not fear, amiga! You and Jesus got this.

  • Amy Jones

    Super blog post. I l0ve how you write; it’s real, it’s funny, it’s you!
    I absolutely despise flying. That whole part cracked me up fo realz because I could do relate.
    I am on this athlete’s devotion writing adventure, and I’m afraid each time I shimmy up to the laptop. But today, I shimmy afraid and do it anyway. Thanks so much for your timely words of the encouragement!

    • Carrie Talbott

      Thanks, Amy. Nice to hear from you! Sorry you despise flying. I’ve been doing it since I was a baby, so the fear part rarely ever crosses my mind. Unless of course I really think about how we’re all sitting up there and not falling. I’m excited about your devotional! I hear ya on the writing part though. I always have a slight fear of wondering if I’ll have anymore good ideas, etc. But I admire you for doing it anyway! Like they say… if writing were easy then everyone would be doing it. Write on, friend.

  • Elizabeth Alvarez

    I never thought about how the commandment ” Do not fear” should be taken just as seriously as “Do not murder”. That is definitely going to stick with me and I will share this pearl of wisdom and Truth too! I saw your presentation at the women’s retreat last weekend (caught the first one without the excitement of the fire alarm) and I never would have known you were that nervous! You did an incredible job and also motivate me to do it afraid and stand firm in God’s strength and refuge. Thank you!!

    • Carrie Talbott

      Hola, Elizabeth! Welcome to my blogging family! I wouldn’t have ever wished for a fire alarm in the middle of my seminar, but it certainly made it memorable, didn’t it? 🙂 Thanks for your kind words. Maybe I should have been an actress–I’m getting a little better at pretending I’m not nervous, but oh glory… clammy palms are the real deal. Do it afraid, amiga!

  • Laurie

    Oh Carrie. “Fear can do more than paralyze and make us over-analyze. It can alter our personalities, control our motivation and stop us from moving forward in faith.” So so good.

    • Carrie Talbott

      Thank you, Laurie. I borrowed some of those ideas from something I read and then changed it into my own. I’m thinking I should probably read it on the regular. 🙂

  • Andrea

    I memorized Ps 91. It’s my mantra. When i am afraid or stuck in a mental whirlpool of doom, I say it. In my head, out loud, slow, fast, loud, or soft. Sometimes it works, sometimes i repeat it 50 times in one sitting. But this I know. My God is greater than my fear. He is taking care of me. He will always see me through it. So I’m invincible ????

    Great post!!!! Have you heard Louie Giglio’s (Passion City Church) Goliath Must Fall series? It changed my life.

    • Carrie Talbott

      Great words, Andrea. Thanks for sharing what you do to help conquer fear. You’re right–your/my/our God IS greater! I haven’t heard of the series, but I’m going to listen to that link you sent on my Carrie Talbott Ink FB page. Thanks!