By Florence Rudo Tafireyi CONTRIBUTOR (Opinions expressed by YOH contributors are their own.)

Looking at my audience, I trembled. I knew what I wanted to say. In fact, I had prepared for my speech the second the chairperson called me upfront, but not a single word could come out of my lips. I turned my face to the window, saw the car passing by outside the school yard. That could have been my starting point to my speech but when I looked back at my audience I stammered. I remember the two words I uttered “moving cars”. I stood there and could feel all eyes on me, waiting for whatever speech I could deliver. I put my right hand in the pocket on my skirt, bite my lips and could feel the heat in t-shirt. I needed air. I needed to disappear. I needed to be someplace else. The chairperson saw me quivering and the fact that I had stood for long without saying a word meant I was wasting everyone’s time. She stood up, clapping hands and waved for me to go back to my seat so another person could come up front and deliver their speech.

That was years back. I was in form two and I had a huge stage fright, despite being a member of the Public Speaking Club at my school. I remember that it wasn’t the only time I froze right in front of people especially when asked to deliver a speech. Countless times I would have my speech prepared in my head but failed to deliver when the time came. I would beat myself afterwards for failing to say a thing. Would ask myself why I chicken out like that. Well, now I know the real reason.

Another incident was when I was asked to have an interview on a book I was writing about on the radio. I was told to pick a date but I never did. I asked what sort of questions would I be asked and even asked for a preview and I was given. I could have gone for the interview but oh well, that fear caught up with me again.

It wasn’t the fear of the crowd but the fear of criticism. Every time I got in the position I was supposed to say something, I had a lot of questions at the back of my mind such as “what would my audience think of my speech?” Honestly I was afraid more of negative feedback or even positive feedback which hinted on how poorly I would have performed. I was afraid. And I still am a bit afraid.

There’s a song by Bruno Mars and Cee-Lo, “The other side” which I like because somehow it gives me the strength to face my fears. The line “you won’t know what it’s like until you try” hits me right at my core. If I never try, if I never attempt to make a move towards whatever I desire to do, even if I fear criticism, I would never know what it is like. Criticism do come whether you do something or not, and at times you need to take that negative feedback and turn it into positive energy. If the comments tell your art piece was of poor taste, next time improve on certain areas and as time goes on you will get there. Criticism is unavoidable and the sooner we learn to handle it, the better it becomes for us to perfect our works.

I know I’m not the only one sailing in this boat, and I hope this piece reaches someone and helps them to improve in areas they are afraid to perform in because of the fear of criticism.

Florence Rudo Tafireyi is a blogger on short stories. You can get in touch with her on or

Florence hail from Mutare, Zimbabwe

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