HuffPost Live recently invited me to participate in their livestream to discuss a piece I’d written about my preference for C-section birth. I did not and do not have any idea how many people even watch HuffPost Live, but regardless of the size of the audience, the interview felt like an opportunity I should seize, not just for “growing my platform” but for myself as an ever-developing human being. Someone considered my ideas worthy of attention; it was incumbent upon me to relish the satisfaction that comes with that kind of validation.

But I was scared. Like really scared. Move-out-the-way-I-gotta-poop scared.

I did not want to do the interview. I always worry when I say things like this that my words will be taken for false modesty, especially since much of what I write has an air of conviction which I do not possess in my everyday words-out-loud life. But I assure you it’s true: I did not want to do the interview. I agreed to it though, because that’s what you fucking do.

A representative from Huffpost Live called me to do a pre-interview and asked me a few questions about my piece. I soon realized she was auditioning me, and thus tried to answer her questions without sounding like I’d just done five thousand burpees. Once, I rambled off topic and forgot the question she’d asked me. And I interrupted her a few times. I do both of these things in real life too, by the way. I’m very annoying to talk to. I may have said two or three insightful things.

At the end of the phone call, we scheduled a time the next morning to do an internet check. I began to plan my responses for every imaginable question; I reread all the arguments that had gummed up the comment sections of the various places the C-section piece had been published. I read articles in scientific publications. I spoke to myself out loud in front of my bathroom mirror. Got out my mustache bleach. Considered trimming my hair.

Through all this, I felt like I was going to throw up. I called my mom and she gave me a much-needed boost. Reminded me that I am, in fact, smart as fuck. That I am a person who succeeds. I continued my preparations.

Later that evening, I got another email from HuffPost Live. (I swear to god I got the email while I was on the toilet taking a nervous poop.) Even before I saw what the email said, I thought, Please let this be a notification that they’re cancelling the interview. It was. A tsunami of relief flooded my veins.

But if I was so relieved, why did I suddenly feel so sad? Why did I want to cry? I was disappointed, it turned out, but not about losing the interview; I was disappointed in myself. I thought, Is this really who I am now? Is my fear of failure really so profound that I would be happy to lose an opportunity like this?

Am I … a pussy?

I thought of my writer friends who had done radio shows and live broadcasts, how I’d been dazzled by their poise and cleverness. Taking it down a notch, I also thought of my regular everyday friends who are adept at succinctly arguing their point in a heated conversation. For me, when a conversation becomes heated, rhinos stampede through my chest cavity and I lose about twenty IQ points. I shut down.

Considering these truths about myself deeply saddened me. At first, I tried to convince myself that I hadn’t always been this way. I remembered times when I’d been brave: the time I flew to Italy and had to figure out the rail system to get to where I was going all by myself; the time I entered a bikini contest; the time I ran thirteen miles in the mud; the time I ate street food in Peru; the two times I gave birth.

I decided I used to be brave but was no longer; I lamented that I had lost something I once possessed.  

But then I realized something; none of these incidences of bravery involved talking in front of an audience. I couldn’t think of a single occasion in my life when I spoke in front of an audience and didn’t gobble like a turkey from anxiety. I often get nervous in front of individuals, too. As early as elementary school I can remember a friend saying “How come you talk funny whenever you talk to the teacher?” It was because I was always fucking nervous to talk to the teacher. Sometimes the passage of time allowed me to become comfortable enough to speak my mind without falling into that abyss of anxiety, but my standard modus operandi was to either warble or just keep my damn trap shut.

Strangely, once I realized I’d never had anything to lose to begin with—that I’ve always been uncomfortable in these situations—I felt better. When it comes to speaking in front of others, I have always been the girl who thinks of the Awesomest Comeback Ever three days later while I’m in the shower washing my hair.

Odds are, I will continue to be that girl. The real difference between my former self and my current self is, now when I get out of the shower I jot those awesome comebacks down and turn them into essays. Sometimes those essays get read and are considered clever and/or relevant enough that someone from Huffpost Live calls me and wants to interview me. And even if I say no, it doesn’t mean I’m a pussy; it just means I have a different way of making myself heard.  

But I’m still going to practice “interviewing” in front of a mirror … just in case.


Kristen Mae is a novelist, freelancer, classical musician, and artist. Follow her on Abandoning Pretense, and check out her books, Beyond the Break and Red Water, available now at most online booksellers.


  1. Public speaking is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. My first real public speaking experience was in ‘Public Speaking 101’–No shit. I actually had to take a public speaking class to graduate from college. I took it during summer school with hopes that the class size would be small. Turned out, my wish came true and I quickly realized that was a COMPLETE nightmare. I would’ve much rather had 300 eyes on me (most likely not paying attention to a word I was speaking) rather than 13 people who were watching my every move. My first public speaking ‘test’ was a total fail. I stammered and blew through a speech that should have taken about 8 minutes, but my body seemed to blurt it all out in roughly 14 seconds. I talked SO fast, hands shook, it was awful. The second time around, I decided to take a (prescribed) Xanax to combat my nerves and that….WAS SO MUCH WORSE. Probably the stupidest fucking thing I’ve ever done. It was like my brain was half INSANELY nervous and half NOT FUCKING THERE! For the remainder of the semester, I stood in front of my mirrored closet door with the ironing board as my podium and memorized every damn word of every damn speech. Ironically, over time, as I had to speak more and more in front of people (funerals, weddings, etc.), it dissipated. Not completely, but the shaking hands, wobbling knees, and the ‘urge to poop’ definitely faded a bit. I think I read that public speaking is one of the most feared things on the planet—I believe it even falls before DEATH. It IS scary! I read your c-section piece and thought it was great. I also think that you are marvelous at ‘making yourself heard’ in your writing. Ya did good! In my opinion, expressing through written words is ten times more difficult than speaking. You have a gift! 🙂

  2. Definitely relate to this. Loved: “Move-out-the-way-I-gotta-poop scared.”–haha. I’d much rather write an email or a text message than speak in person or even on the phone. In person is the worst because then I become very aware of my face and it seems to be blowing up like a balloon. I’m pretty sure that’s not what’s happening.

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