How I Deal With My Fear of Participation

Participation: the dreaded 20% of a final grade. My heart feels like it's going to jump out of my chest, I can hear the blood pumping in my ears, anxiety is through the roof--all because I need to raise my hand and comment on the readings. I’ve always struggled with class participation because it honestly terrifies me. 

I’ve found that online classes help a bit because I’m in the comfortable environment of my own home and I only have to speak to a computer screen....but then again, it’s easier to completely clock out of class participation as well, shut off my audio and video and be done with it. 

From my experience, verbal participation continues to be a large portion of the final grade even during online classes, so here are a few ways that I try to overcome my fear of participation. These are not concrete solutions that will magically rid the anxiety of your body but rather things that trick the brain into feeling less afraid. 


Cred: Giphy

Things I tell myself before class:

  1. I deserve to be here and I have something worth saying. 
  2. Nobody will remember when I make a mistake (can you remember the last comment someone said in a lecture? Because I can’t).
  3. I want to get the most out of my education; participating in discussions is meant to help me think more deeply about the topic. 
  4. I want to show the professor that I’m invested and listening in class. 
  5. I won’t let my participation anxiety hold me back. 


Cred: Giphy
  1. When I’m really struggling, I try meeting with professors during office hours or even just through email. Creating a one-on-one relationship will surely help that participation grade, but it also makes me not want to disappoint them (which leads to me participating more!).  
  2. I think about people who inspire me (celebrities, professors, public figures) and think about how they would participate in class. I try to be like them. 
  3. I imagine the person I want to be ie. someone who is confident and participates. Simply thinking like this can give me a big enough burst of encouragement to try and be like that. 


  1. Don’t wait for someone else to speak. When I have something to say I try not to let the anxiety build and just go for it. 
  2. I make it a goal to participate once during every class. It is literally part of my daily to-do list, when I accomplish this, I check the box. 


Cred: Giphy
  1. Since participating doesn’t come easy, I make sure to recognize my successes when I do speak up. A reward can be anything, like watching a tv show, but sometimes it is enough for me just to tell myself that I did a good job. 

These are all things I think about constantly throughout the week. I don’t naturally feel comfortable participating in class so I need to think about my reminders and goals before joining Zoom!

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