How to Transform Your Passion into Confident Self-Expression: Speaker Empowerment for Educators & Professionals, with Linda Ugelow: Podcast Transcript

Ludo Millar
Hello, and welcome to the Qualified Tutor Podcast, the podcast that brings you the latest in the world of tutoring EdTech and education and hopefully inspires in us a big change that each and every one of us is capable of.

Qualified Tutor is an industry-leading tutor training organisation and an online tutoring community for 1000s of tutors around the world. This podcast is the voice of this community, where we aim to hear from tutors, teachers, entrepreneurs, coaches, business experts, students, tutor printers, and more from the world of tutoring about what inspires them every day, how they can help tutors like you and what they’ve learned about tutoring along the way.

The question is, what will you learn today?


Ludo Millar 1:21
Welcome to the 120th episode of the Qualified Tutor Podcast. My name is Ludo Millar, the host of this podcast. And welcome back to regular listeners. Welcome to any of you for whom this is your first time listening to the Qualified Tutor Podcast. And of course, a huge welcome to today’s guest, Linda Ugelow. Hello, Linda. Welcome to the podcast.

Linda Ugelow 2:35
I’m very happy to be here. Thanks, Ludo.

Ludo Millar 2:38
It’s a real pleasure to have you on Linda. My colleague Julia Silver, has, as many of our listeners know, been in the process of writing a book alongside the great AJ Harper. And I realised in speaking to you just before this podcast that that was how Julia came across Linda was through the connection with AJ. So today is going to be a great conversation because I’m sure Linda’s ideas have been woven through with AJ Harper’s great, great thoughts and philosophies. So we had AJ Harper on just a few weeks ago, actually. So if any of you listeners who remember that episode, this will just be a continuation of those brilliant ideas. And now, just for your listeners, a brief introduction to Linda.

As I’m sure you’ll find out over the course of the next 25 minutes or so, Linda is a real force of nature. There’s so much energy, there’s so much passion to everything that Linda does. A lifelong dancer and performer, Linda has a well chronicled journey of self discovery on that, and one that has led her to authorship and coaching in the area of speaking and crucially speaking with confidence and self expression. Now, in so many parts of our lives, we’re asked to speak to perform in front of others, be it colleagues, clients or friends and for tutors, that’s students and the parents of students. Linda helps people remove these blocks and doubts that creep up and prevent us from delivering our voice and our vision, including a new book that Linda has recently written, Delight in the Limelight which, alongside AJ, explores this and much more around the Inner Freedom Framework which takes you from a place of anxiety to a place of free self expression, which I’m sure we’ll hear just a little bit more about today if we’re lucky. But without further ado, welcome Linda. What’s giving you reason to smile today?

Linda Ugelow 4:42
I find every day an adventure and whether it’s a day that has lots of things planned in it and I get to experience those those things that are on the calendar or it’s a day that’s more open and I have little freedom to fly all around, it’s still like, ‘What is today going to bring?’

Ludo Millar 5:04
It’s such a good mindset. I think the power of that mindset bears itself out. We’ll be discovering a little bit more that through your background, your career, what you’re up to now and what we can look forward to ahead for you, Linda, in which we’ll be coming to at the end of the conversation. But I gather, we were talking about this just now. I gather there’s a little story from your youth which has an ironic twist to it about what you’ve become in your adult life, Linda, is that right?

Linda Ugelow 5:38
Yes. I recently, when I was reading the book, I remembered this story from when I took my first movement therapy class, I was 18 years old, it was a summer-long programme up in Boston. And I scrambled through my journals in the basement. And finally, I knew it was this yellow notebook. And I finally found it, and I went through it. And I found this is what I thought was a very funny story. Because in the book, I’m talking about relaxation, because we want to feel relaxed, when we speak, we want to feel relaxed on camera, when we’re in conversations, when we’re teaching, you know, whatever it is, we want to feel like we aren’t carrying extra tension around with us. So in this story, we had an exercise where we were paired up and one of us was supposed to lie down and relax. And then the other person was going to lift up our arm and just kind of shake it and jiggle it around. And as the person lying down, you had to kind of allow that person to take over your arm. Well, I couldn’t do it. My arm was totally stiff and rigid.

And my, my poor partner was very frustrated. And she called over our teacher, ‘I can’t get Linda to relax’. So the teacher came over and she tried cradling my arm and coaxing it and whatever. But I just didn’t get it. I had failed at relaxation. And it was so funny for me to think back at that and actually find the story in my journal. Because I realised looking back, we know so many things, looking back on our lives, that this has been a lifelong journey of mine to feel more relaxed. And more comfortable being myself and being self expressive.

Ludo Millar 7:33
Would you say then that journey you’ve just described, would you say that is your why?

Linda Ugelow 7:42
I’m not sure if that would be my why. I think it’s a piece of it, and it’s a tool. In fact, I realised that when I first became a coach, before I started to do what I’m doing now, which I’ll get into a little more later, I ran a series of the Feeling Fabulous relaxation series, and I made different audios every week of different ways to relax the body because it was something that I had finally felt like I had, I wouldn’t say mastered but I had so much experience in and a lot of creativity around all these different ways that we can feel more relaxed in our bodies and in our energy.

What my why is would be, I think that’s even different than this idea of wanting to be self expressed. Because I didn’t know I wanted to be more fully self expressed until pretty recently, actually. I would say my why is that I struggled with speaking in public all my life. And when I was in my 50s, it occurred to me that I didn’t want to do that anymore. And I’ll tell you the story about that in a second. But what I needed at that time was someone to help me understand how to get rid of it. And I couldn’t find it anywhere online. I learned all kinds of management techniques that would help me. So this is what the context is, is that I was a coach online, I was beginning as a coach and I was just wanting to build an audience for the work that I did. And I had heard, this was 2015, here was an amazing new app that was going to change the online space forever and it was called Periscope.

I don’t know if you’ve heard of Periscope or if any of your listeners have heard of Periscope, but it was the very first live streaming app. And I heard that it was blowing up and you had to get on and livestream daily and you build your following. And I was determined to do that. Now, I had come from a place of, in grad school, having one of those presentations from hell that I’m sure a lot of people have had where I opened my mouth and not a word came out of my mouth. And I was so mortified. And my mouth was dry like cotton, and it was a disaster. And I said, I’ll never speak in public again. And I mean, I was on stage with my performing group. But as much as I could, I never introduced a song if I had to, you know, I would have all these heart palpitations. And it was very intense somehow with dance with singing in a group. I was okay, but speaking, no good.

So here I was. I had taken a bunch of video classes. So I got somewhat familiar with videos, but they weren’t public. But here I was on Periscope. And I felt like oh, my god, hyperventilating as a performer trying to not show it, but I was feeling it. And day after day. It was so intense, I thought, How am I gonna get through this? And I finally called my video mentor. And I said, ‘Are you scared too?’ and she said, ‘Oh, Linda, everyone’s scared, you’ll be fine. It takes about 75 days to adjust’. And I thought 75 days, you’re gonna end up in the hospital. So that’s when I started to Google, How do you get over your nerves? and I found things like pretend your fear’s excitement. Well, I love the idea. But you know what, you can tell the difference. If it’s fear or its excitement, I couldn’t really fool myself.

The second thing would be like, don’t think of yourself, think of your audience, which I also loved. But it’s hard to do when you feel like you’re having a panic attack. And the third thing that really struck me was feel the fear and do it anyway. And I thought, yes, so I’m going to do that. I’m just going to, I’m going to put white knuckle through, I’m going to push through, and I even joined a Periscope team that was called #doitscared, and we would support each other. And all of us were just doing it scared. So I got to day 75. And I got better at presenting. But when I went to press broadcasts, I thought, Gosh, darn it, my heart is still racing. 75, I’ve done 10 weeks of this daily, Why is my heart still racing? And then I thought, you know, I am showing up, I am doing it scared. I don’t want to do it scared. I don’t want to feel scared. So I was going to figure it out.

Now, as you might have gathered from my story about dance therapy, I actually have a master’s degree now or got it some decades ago in expressive arts therapy, and movement study. So I had a lot of tools. I’ve done a lot of personal development, as you mentioned. And I made a list of everything. And I thought I’m going to, I didn’t realise I had this problem that I needed to use my tools, but I had a lot of tools. I said, Okay, I’m gonna get rid of this. And the very first thing I did was listen inside my body and ask, what is this fear?

And when I close my eyes, the first thing that came into my mind was I’m going to be attacked. I thought, Whoa, is that like saber-toothed tiger in the Serengeti, kind of cellular memory, ancestral memory, or have I been attacked? And then I realised, actually, I had been numerous times in my family, by my sisters, because my mom used to put me on a pedestal and say, because I was the good girl in the family. I always did the dishes, put my clothes away, and she would say, ‘Why can’t you girls be more like Linda?’ My sisters were the naughty ones. And every time she said that, I was thinking, Oh, no, because as soon as you walked out the room, they would charge, they attack me, kick me in the shins, say ‘Shut up stupid’. And that was something that they used to say to me a lot ‘Shut up stupid’ when they felt like I was getting the attention. And then it was this amazing realisation. Not an ‘A-ha’ but a D-day. Of course, I don’t feel like it’s comfortable for me being the centre of attention, be on camera or speak to a crowd because there’s part of me that remembered it was dangerous to be the centre of attention.

And then I thought, Whoa, so this fear that I have is not about what’s going on in the present, it’s a trigger from the past. And then I thought Oh my gosh, what else do I have in the past? And I started combing through all my memories. Like, who said what, to me that made me feel like I wasn’t okay. That made me feel embarrassed that I felt shamed from or ridiculed or pressure to perform before I was ready. And I spent like the next five days, I was up like four hours in the night, thinking of comments that have been made and forgiving everyone I could think of and forgiving myself. And Ludo, by the end of five days, my racing heart was gone. And I thought, Hallelujah, this is so good. It feels so good not to feel afraid anymore. And suddenly, I could be present. And even the next week, I had a hectic day, I got online to Periscope. And I said, Oh, I’m so glad to get on camera with you. Because I’ve had such a busy day. And now I can just relax. And I thought, Oh, I like that. Getting on camera is a time that I can just relax. Isn’t that nice?

Ludo Millar 16:14
So, why is it so important to relax for self expression and speaking?

Linda Ugelow 16:23
Well, I think the biggest piece is that when you have tension in your body, especially extra tension, it sends a message to the brain that you are stressed. And that stress creates more cortisol, which creates more anxiety. And when you have cortisol, what happens when you have fear, it keeps you from being fully present, chemically in your body. If you are hyperventilating a little bit, which happens a lot when people are afraid of speaking, their breath changes. And if you are not having the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your body, like when you hyperventilate, you actually bring in too much oxygen to your cells. And then the cells cannot get that oxygen out of the bloodstream into the cell because it needs a certain level of carbon dioxide in the blood in order to remove the oxygen for the cells. And it also keeps this blood from flowing to your brain, which is where you want it, you want to be able to think clearly. So you have this double whammy of not getting oxygen to the brain, not enough blood flow to the brain, not enough oxygen into the cells. And also when your amygdala is activated, the amygdala is the fear centre of the brain, you actually block access to the prefrontal cortex areas where all your analytical thinking is. So to do your best thinking, to do your best speaking, the best communicating, the more at ease you can be, the more supported you are in your body.

Ludo Millar 18:10
So on a very on a similar theme, why is the ability to self express important? Why is it so important to professional and personal lives?

Linda Ugelow 18:25
You know, we seem to forget it. But when we are able to, in our speaking, point out through our expression what’s exciting, what’s important, what’s interesting, what’s significant, then we actually help the person we’re speaking to, to understand our thoughts. So we’re doing it partly as a service to help ourselves be more understood as a service for the other people to understand us. And also, on a more physical level, if you think, I’m going to step back on this because I want you to imagine sitting down after doing some work and just having a sigh, like an ease and it feels good. Feels good to just sigh. Now every sentence we say is a sigh. It’s an exhale, it’s this experience of release and there is something incredibly physically satisfying about speaking, making sound, making resonance on a breath. So even on that level, which we’re not even thinking about because we’re everything of words and concepts, but the act of speaking is a very self satisfying experience.

Ludo Millar 19:55
I think that must help public speakers get into the right frame of mind so, so well, because they’re clearly intelligent, well informed individuals. If you’ve been invited to speak somewhere, it’s because you have an idea or concept or a way of speaking that is valuable. And yet, when they get to, so many of them get to that moment, there’s, as you say, there’s that sudden lack of working things out, that lack of using your mouth and your speech functions in the way that you normally do.

Linda Ugelow 20:32
So it’s just too, before we move on, I just want to comment on that, when you are aware of the possibilities of using your speech functions to help you it actually becomes grounding. It’s another way of helping you to become more centred and present. Because it’s mindful, present mind awareness of your speaking. And also, it’s fun to find ways to speak, speak your words, so that they, they feel tasty. It’s just fun. And that makes speaking more fun. It makes teaching more fun. It’s really, I think, such a gift that we have this human design of speaking.

Ludo Millar 21:25
Yeah, and you’re helping people find that within them. So you must have worked, Linda, with so many people. You know, your website, it talks about how you work with professionals, you know, corporate individuals to be able to express themselves, how you work with public speakers, how you work with authors who are speaking on stage, that kind of thing. What are the kind of top two things that you’ve learned from working with so many individuals on their public speaking confidence?

Linda Ugelow 21:58
Yeah, well, I think how everybody is really unique, everyone has their own unique stories and their own unique patterns. But they all seem to when you have a fear of speaking, it’s always related to something in the past. So it’s Oh, so in my inner freedom framework, the first step is to reveal and heal. To find what it is now, most often, it’s something that may be somewhat traumatic, you know, on the negative side, because we all have negative and positive experiences, and the negative ones seems to loom large in our memories. But sometimes, it’s things that we wouldn’t have expected to hold us up, like being the best in the class. I’ve had clients that, you know, had a great childhood at home, they felt well liked at school, they got good grades, but then when we investigated the good grades part, you know, you have to understand, and this is relevant for I think, two years to know as well, that when we get a good grade, it often comes with making the fewest mistakes. And this may be a helpful way of measuring learning in a particular environment, but it is not a very helpful framework for public speaking. Because in public speaking, you need a sense of freedom, to make mistakes, and to know that it’s okay. And that you want to experiment, you want to explore. And you have to give yourself a wide slate to have permission to do all of that, and not to be perfect.

So it’s almost like on the one hand, we’re working in a system that is looking for perfection, but we are in our self expression, we need to work with a very different set of rules that gives ourselves permission to not be perfect, to explore and allow ourselves to be where we are, know that we’re going to improve and know that and totally love and accept ourselves. So that’s actually how you create safety and that’s the second part of the inner freedom framework is restoring a sense of safety by giving yourself wider permission and honouring your journey, your personal journey and also hopefully the journey of the people that you’re working with to know that everybody is wonderful and okay, where they are and we build upon the strength rather than pointing out the pieces that are not okay the weakest points because when we get criticism, that activates our fear centre, we get defensive because we need to hold on to that sense of self that wants to believe that we’re okay. And we are okay. Until someone says we’re not. And that doesn’t mean we can’t learn, we can, but we’re tender. We’re very tender at the bone. And I think it’s helpful to remember that we restore that sense of safety.

Yeah, so that’s what I’ve learned is that everybody has a story, everyone is unique. Some people will feel fine speaking on camera and not okay speaking in person, or vice versa, or fine speaking with their students, but not with the parents, or you know what I mean, it’s like everyone has their own place where they feel really comfortable. Hopefully, there’s a place where everyone feels really comfortable with friends or family, and then places where they may feel uncomfortable. And the idea is, if there’s some place that you don’t feel comfortable, let’s explore why.

Ludo Millar 26:03
I feel like the story that you’re telling here, the narrative is of individuals finding themselves, you know, the corporate boss, or the teacher or the public speaker, but it’s so analogous to how an educator works with a child, it’s so closely tied the idea of trusting others, trusting yourself, trusting the student, the learner, trusting the educator to make those mistakes in order to progress. I can’t believe those similarities there and hopefully, listeners, that’s ringing in your mind about what it means to to effectively educate a learner or to work with a learner in building that sense of trust, and letting them know that they can be themselves. They don’t have to try and be anything. And that, you know, the learning journey is all about uniqueness, which is exactly as you just said, that everyone is unique.

Now, just bringing this conversation to a bit of a close, not just yet, there’s a couple more questions I want to ask Linda, the first one is, you’ve talked about two of the components of the model that you expound in the book Delight in the Limelight, can you just tell us a little bit more about about that book, who it’s for, and what people will learn by purchasing a copy?

Linda Ugelow 27:26
Yes, Delight in the Limelight: Overcome Your Fear of Being Seen to Realize Your Dreams. So I want people to feel like they are not stuck with the anxiety that they feel speaking or expressing themselves somewhere that there is absolutely a process that you can go through to bring yourself to the other side. And in the book, I share my ideas, but I hope that people will read it and have it stimulate their own ideas as well. I see this book as- some very nice reviewer said it’s like having a coach in your pocket. And that’s what I hope that people feel from it, that from reading it, that they are able to be self reflective and find their own way through their own process with looking at their past, looking at how they speak to themselves, and just how you talk about a teacher needing to honour the individual student, you have to if you’re good at that already turn that around to do that for yourself. So that’s what this book does. And in the third section, which I did not mention, which is repatterning your habits, that’s like the relaxation the delicious diction, the- you like that word delicious [LAUGHS].

Ludo Millar 29:05
Did AJ come up with that? Or was that you … ?

Linda Ugelow 29:07
That was me. [LAUGHS] I really like naming things. I have programmes like watch yourself on video without cringing and make friends with the lens. And I feel like becoming more and more of ourselves is a lifelong journey. That’s what the third part is repairing our habits really like allowing once you’re over the hump once you’ve removed those elements that keep us from being present, the past experiences, the way we speak to ourselves. We can put we can stand firmly in the rest of this journey to become really the best that we can be. To be more of ourselves and it’s not like we one day arrive and oh, this is who I am. No well I’m still working on this, I’m still, like, looking to be more comfortable.

I have a TikTok page, I have 160,000 followers and I’ve taken a break. And it’s kind of like, I feel like I want to come back to it was something new in myself, you know? And so it’s we never, you know, some people might say, oh my god, she’s made it, I have a couple of more than a million view videos. But no, I feel like I don’t, I’m still on this journey with everybody. And it’s what I hope is that people will get over the suffering part and into the fun part. Because we’re here on this planet for a pretty short time. I know it seems long, and you know, until you get to my age. But it is a short time, and we may as well spend as much of it making the best of it as we can. And like, wow, the best part of living is enjoying ourselves, isn’t it? Isn’t that what we want? Is to have meaningful, satisfying, and or fun experiences as much as we can.

Ludo Millar 31:19
What a fantastic way to end this podcast. That was beautiful. Thank you. I hope you- this is not your first podcast. But I hope you’ve been able to explore what you do and your philosophies in a unique way, in a slightly different way. Our audience is probably not one that you’ve spoken to a great deal before, these kinds of tutors and teachers, but your work is so closely aligned to what we do. I didn’t even spot that when, you know, booking you and researching you as a guest. So it’s great to see how those things kind of work together, how education and confidence and trust intertwine. It’s amazing, it really is. I hope listeners, you are encouraged to go and get a copy of Delight in the Limelight. I really encourage you to pick up a copy. Because those three models or the three parts of that model that Linda was talking about there, it’s just the start really, to finding that out for yourself. So thank you so much for that. That was hugely both entertaining and informative. It’s a real pleasure to have you on this podcast.

Linda Ugelow 32:29
It’s a pleasure for me too. Thanks, Ludo.


Ludo Millar

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