02/09/2012 04:30 pm ET | Updated Apr 10, 2012

Do You Have a Fear of Public Speaking?

If you fear public speaking more than going to the dentist, or even death, you are not alone.

This fear is so common that surveys indicate that over 50 percent of the adult population of the United States experiences fear when speaking in public. As Jerry Seinfield put it quite accurately on one of his shows: Most people would rather be in the casket than delivering the eulogy.

We have had a number of clients whose fear of speaking in pubic was so great that they turned down promotions rather than take a job that required them to speak in public on a regular basis. The saddest call we ever had was from a man who called to say his daughter had just announced to him that she was about to get married... and this news made him petrified. Why? Because he realized he was going to have to make a toast at the wedding.

Interestingly enough, there is nothing inherently scary about talking to a few people who are there to hear what you have to say. And why does merely having to introduce oneself at a meeting lead many people to go to the bathroom just before it is their turn.

What makes speaking in public so common and so frightful?

If you've been reading my regular blog posts, you won't be surprised to learn that my answer is: beliefs.

In fact, after helping over 3,000 people eliminate this problem, we've discovered the specific beliefs that cause this fear. Let me tell you what they are and why they result in this widespread fear.

Here are the beliefs that cause a fear of public speaking in most people:

• Mistakes and failure are bad.
• If I make a mistake or fail I'll be rejected.
• I'm not good enough.
• I'm not capable.
• I'm not competent.
• What I have to say is not important.
• People aren't interested in what I have to say.
• I'm not important.
• What makes me good enough and important is having people think well of me.
• Change is difficult.
• Public speaking is inherently scary.

To make it real that these beliefs could cause such terror in so many people, ask yourself this question: Imagine someone, whom you don't know, who really had all the beliefs I listed above. Do you think she would be afraid to speak in public? In fact, wouldn't you be willing to wager that she would have public speaking anxiety?

Why these beliefs cause a fear of speaking in public

I think most people would agree that anyone with these beliefs would fear public speaking. And here's why: A belief is nothing more than a statement about reality that we feel is true. And if we think it is true that it is bad to make mistakes and if we do we'll be rejected, and if our sense of importance is dependent on others thinking well of us -- then we would have to be terrified when we stand up to speak in front of others because we could make a mistake, leading to rejection, and because we would feel less important if people thought less of us.

But you might be thinking: I am afraid to speak in public but I don't agree with most of these beliefs. Here's a strange thing about beliefs: It is possible to intellectually disagree with a belief we hold. In other words, early in life we might have concluded as a result of interactions with our parents that it's bad to make a mistake (because mom and dad got upset when we didn't live up to their expectations).

Now, today, we might realize that innovation is possible only if we are willing to try new things that might not work out. Mistakes are part of the process of doing something new and different. So we "know" that it's okay to make mistakes and learn from them. But merely knowing that does not get rid of beliefs.

If fear is not inherent in public speaking and if the fear is caused by specific beliefs, then eliminating the beliefs will eliminate the fear. Not reduce it or make it easier to deal with. Eliminate it.

Research proves eliminating beliefs eliminates public speaking fear

A study conducted by the University of Arizona several years ago determined that if the beliefs listed above (and a few conditionings) were eliminated, the mean level of fear of the subjects studied fell from 7 to 1.5 on a scale of 1-10, one being no fear whatsoever and 10 being terror.

To prove this to yourself, get rid of three of the 11 beliefs that cause a fear of public speaking (and a bunch of other unpleasant feelings) by using a free belief-elimination process at Your fear of speaking in public is not due to "human nature." You can rid yourself of that terrifying prospect once and for all.