Breaking Through – Masks, Stagefright and Creatively Being.

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of attending  TEDxCalgary at the Glenbow Museum and hearing some amazing speakers deliver on the topic of “Breaking Through: Exploring the frontiers of ideas and actions.” I also…was greatly honoured to be one of the speakers, and this was the biggest breakthrough for me.

Dog Ate My Homework
My Imaginary Conspirator.

It took me two weeks to think through whether or not I could do this – to break through the safe, quiet solititude of my cocoon-like studio and step into the stage spotlight to share. I had visions of tripping down the stairs and landing face first as I walked in…throwing up on the first few rows of the audience (that literally would be a repeat performance for me). My insane left-brained mind created all sorts of “don’t do this!” scenarios, creating fears and tons of reasons. I think at one point, I even texted my speaker coach to tell her that the dog ate my speech. (Sadly, she knew we didn’t have a dog.)

My biggest fear for the past couple of months (okay…years), has been this odd form of stagefright. Yes. It’s true. I suffer from stagefright and am a die-hard, diagnosed introvert!

I think that was my biggest personal breakthrough was in conquering a very real fear of public speaking, baring my soul and telling my story as me…in front of an audience. Odd – because for such a long time, I literally LIVED in the theatre in my 20’s, loving every opportunity to portray interesting characters in classic stories in front of hundreds of people.

It’s not usual that we accomplish this “breaking through” metamorphosis on our own, but we DO tend to think we are alone in our fears. Not so. I’m ever-grateful to my fellow speakers and my speaker coach, Donna Kennedy-Glans for the encouragement and support to try, and for sharing with me too, how nervous they all were too, about “getting it right” on one try. I’m thankful for so many of my friends and family who encouraged me through this.

My observation in the short-term for all of this is:

It is so much easier to don the mask of a character, with a story that is written for you, which is not about you – personally.

The Comedy and Tragedy of Masking Your True Self
The Comedy and Tragedy of Masking Your True Self

“Acting” distances you from yourself (if you’re good at it) and you tell someone else’s story through your own filters & experience. This theatrical artform has become prolific in our day and age and is reflected by the masks we don in our jobs, and all the separate situations we might find ourselves every day.

We modify our behaviours to hide little bits of our gorgeous, breath-taking human selves…. out of fear.


“Fear, in my opinion, is just a misguided form of creativity.”

How might it be for all of us if we were able to all just “be” ourselves in every situation? What might arise from this and for us? What might this intimate sharing of stories reveal about each of us, in our fragile human state.

I learned so much over the weekend, not just from the rich content, brilliant ideas and brave folk who attended, spoke, volunteered, organized and tech-savvied the whole event, but from the act of openly sharing meaningful personal stories, despite nerves and all of the other distractions that accompany family life.

When you conquer that petty fear, show your true self authentically, magical things happen. I feel so lucky to be able to watch my children model that every day for me.

I think this is the experiment I am in as a Full Time Human Being for the remainder of my life, and I encourage you to uncover the creativity inside of you which is masked by your fears.

Tell your own…..

Once Upon A Time

August 5th – Postscript note: If you would like to witness first hand, my fearful moments, the TEDxCalgary talk is now posted here: The Language of The Creator.

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Kathleen

    I loved your talk, and was so delighted to be able to see it in person.

    I didn’t think you were nervous at all, especially given your opening line! 🙂 Congratulations on a personal achievement and on a really great and inspiring talk as well. You and Judge Reilly were my favourite speakers on Saturday.


    1. Janice Tanton

      Thank you, Kathleen. In fact, I am very nervous when it comes to things like this. I think the energy in the room, and the closeness of the folks that were there really helped me. Frank’s talk was rather interesting, so the chickens really played into “me”.

      I’m glad you were inspired. I hope you continue to be so! Inspiration every day moves us forward in directions we don’t expect….what better place to conquer fear!

  2. Kim Bruce

    When you are passionate about something it provides you the energy, the conviction and the confidence to carry on. You have passion Janice, it comes through in your talk.

    1. Janice Tanton

      Thanks Kim! 🙂 Public speaking scares me….but I’m warming up to it. 😉

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