It’s interesting how many of us reasonably competent and well-adjusted human beings can be reduced to gibbering wrecks at the prospect of an important examination or interview.
For some of us the nervousness begins when the date of the event is announced. Once this occurs we begin rehearsing for a disastrous interview or examination, for panicky feelings, for the inability to think, and so on.
And as the event draws nearer our negative rehearsal becomes more realistic (since we’re done it so many times), our preparations become more frantic and our nervousness builds to an almost incapacitating level. We’re moving into panic.
And it all boils down to a phobic or irrational fear of being judged by others.
“Irrational” because, realistically, we know we have the qualities to get the job, pass the test, or succeed in the examination. Rationally we know that the process is simply an opportunity for us to demonstrate this to other people – yet the body/emotions go into Fight or Flight mode at the prospect.
So, however well-qualified we are, however thoroughly we have prepared for the event, our emotional response can potentially undermine our ability to prove our worth!
The key to getting around this is to make a clear distinction between
(1) preparing in terms of knowledge and skill (see our Sell Yourself! workshop)
(2) emotional preparation. (I’ve now updated the Fear of Interviews and Examinations web page on this topic with some practical tips for dealing with the emotional preparation.)
And to recognise that they require a different type of preparation.