Your palms sweat; your throat becomes dry and scratchy.’  Your knees knock together and every time you try to speak, all that comes out is a slow hoarse whisper.

Often this is what happens when you go to speak in front of a group of people or in front of people in powerful positions. Our fears can be very gripping and can prevent us from being the best possible advocates that we can be.’  In order to get our voices heard, though, we must get past our fears of speaking out.’  The following are three central “Fear Issues” that we have all faced at one point in time or another and pointers to help overcome them.

Fear Issue #1 “I don’t know what to say!”: When presenting your case in front of a group of legislators, it can seem like a daunting task.’  But, all it takes is a little preparation.

  1. Talk to community and staff members and come to a consensus about some talking points.’  It is important to construct the message that you want to deliver and that everyone you are representing is on the same page with you.
  2. Research the positions of those you are talking to.’  It is important to know where they stand on an issue in order to have positive discourse on the given subject.
  3. Write out some notes and practice talking to others about what you are going to talk about.’  Practicing a sample sit-down helps to iron out any issues that you have with the delivery of and the message itself.

Fear Issue #2 “I get nervous when face to face with the person/people I am talking to.”

  1. First, take a deep breath and gather your thoughts.’  If you are a person who gets nervous in these situations, it might help to take someone with you until you can regain your thought process. Or, it might also help to go with a veteran speaker/take them as back up’ the first time around to see how the process goes
  2. Remember that your elected officials are people just like you.’ 
  3. Remember your passion for the issues you are communicating.’  You wouldn’t be there advocating for the issue at hand if you didn’t think it was absolutely detrimental.
  4. Issues need to be advocated for, and libraries need every advocate they can get! Without you, think of how many voices would go unheard.
  5. Practice makes perfect.’  It may be rough the first few times you step into that public spotlight, but after awhile, you will be a pro!

Fear Issue #3 “What if I Fail?” Many times, we will be turned down.’  Many times, we will hear the word “no.” But, we owe it to ourselves and the teens that we are advocating for to keep trying until we hear “Yes!”‘ 

Overall, think about the words of Ambrose Redmoon “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.”

Library and teen advocacy is so important, don’t let your fears be your downfall.’  Turn them around and use them as your stepping board to advocacy!

About Krista McKenzie

I am a Children's Specialist at the Ruth Enlow Library in Garrett County, Maryland. I work with kids from the ages of 0 to 18 and am also a reference librarian. In addition, I am member of the YALSA Legislative Committee, and the Children's Services Division of the Maryland Library Association.

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