Your fears are situation specific, I understand that because you can help tourists when they need help in the U-Bahn, restaurant or high street without thinking and you can speak to me (once you get to know me) without feeling anxious, but the thought of speaking English in front of your colleagues is a completely different story, particularly if those colleagues happen to be German.
If you’ve heard them speaking English, the fear is likely to be greater still especially if they haven’t heard you speak English before, because for some reason you’re judging their English as being better than yours and, presuming that they’ll think your English is not good.
I think that’s probably a general truth, that if we’re already lacking in confidence in an area, we’re a little more self conscious in front of our ‘own people’ whether that means our team, our countrymen or sometimes our family, because their opinion of us matters more than that of outsiders. However, I think this fear of criticism in Germans could be a little stronger than in other nationalities. I’m aware I’m speaking of stereotypes here and there are many people for whom this doesn’t fit, but at risk of offending a whole nation and getting lots of negative comments, I”m going to mention it anyway.
The fact is that having lived in Germany for over 20 years I’ve never known another nationality quite so eager to criticise others when they do something wrong. It seems to me like some form of unofficial National sport… I’ve had locals shout at me from across the street when I’ve done something wrong… more than once! In there defence, they were probably right, and I was probably doing something that although not illegal, and certainly not endangering anyone, probably was against some obscure and (in my view) illogical rule.
My point here is that your fear might seem illogical and embarrassing to you, but you don’t have to feel any shame in admitting your seemingly illogical fears to me, because I understand and I have the greatest compassion with you, whoever you are, and however high up the seniority ladder you are.
When it comes to fears we tend to judge ourselves harshly when we succumb to them. And, we most certainly aren’t comfortable admitting these pesky insecurities to others. So, to help put you at ease and show you that I’m also ‘human’ I’d like to share with you one of my fears. I have a fear of going into buildings that I’m not familiar with. Even if they are public buildings, in fact thinking about it - particularly if they are public buildings. Now I know this makes no sense, and I don’t know exactly where it comes from, but I know that there’s a connection between not being enough, and being told I don’t belong. I was once on the verge of a panic attack in a public library in Munich, because I didn’t know the system, of where to enter, that I had to leave my bag in a locker, where the lockers were, how to get the card to access the locker etc. The security guards where actually super friendly, but despite this I couldn’t stay for more than a few minutes because I was shaking so much!
This isn’t such a big problem for me today, as I rarely have to go into public buildings, and I have learnt how to manage myself beforehand. I also have an army of friends who also happen to be coaches who I can call If I need them. But I know that’s not how it is for everyone.
If you’re struggling through situations alone and need some support to finally get over ‘stuff’ and get on with your life, you can trust me to be there for you.