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How To Stop Worrying And Use Your Own Fear To Your Advantage

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How To Stop Worrying And Use Your Own Fear To Your Advantage

Fear can be crippling. The fear of failure, rejection, or simply the unknown can render us paralyzed. Imprisoned in our own minds, we may end up boxing ourselves into a corner, feeling unfulfilled and frustrated. On the other hand, fear serves a purpose. From a survival standpoint, fear keeps us from doing things that might be harmful such as walking off the top of a 16-story building. Thanks, fear of heights. Fear can also be a great motivator: if we direct our energy in the right way, the fear of not achieving goals or falling short of a vision, can get us moving.

Here are a few truths about fear to help you utilize it, rather than let it control you.

1. Realize that most of your fears are irrational

Our minds sometimes ramble and project. We have a huge capacity for speculation, imagination, and wonder. This can be an asset as creativity is the wellspring of innovation. It can also get in the way when the things we imagine provoke fear. We can imagine the worst scenarios. The “what if” element can befuddle us into non-action.

Some minds tend to linger in the murkier side of “what if” more than others. At a certain point you simply have to realize that the things you’re obsessing over are pretty far-fetched, and let it go. Instead of succumbing to this dread in your mind, simply analyzing the things you’ve been afraid of in the past, which never materialized, can help you overcome your current fears. Once fear is recognized as unreal, the impediment is removed and you’re propelled forward.

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2. Understand that even your rational fears will probably never happen

Even if our fears are based in reality and qualify as somewhat rational, a lot of life is a battle in the mind more than anything else. Most of even the legitimate scenarios we dream up will never come to fruition. In fact, not even close.

For those of us who manage to psyche ourselves out with the possibilities in our future, let’s keep in mind that they’re just that: possibilities. Most embarrassment, disgrace, horrible modes of disease and death you ponder will not happen to you. Tragedies in life are usually unforeseen and unavoidable. So stop ruining your life worrying about it!

Coming to terms with this will not only help you relax in general, but it might even help you to take new chances. Without the feeling of impending doom, you’re free to experience life in a more vibrant way.

3. Accept that sometimes you will realize a genuine fear, but you’ll get through it

Bad things happen, even to the best, the most cautious, and the healthiest of us. But even when we realize a fear in one form or another, it’s more than likely not as bad as we thought. So you completely bombed on an interview, the guy you were seeing was still seeing his ex-girlfriend, or you’re a terrible executive assistant. Even though these things can be painful in the moment, anything short of death itself is literally not the end of the world.

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You’ll manage. You’ll get through. And in the long run, these nightmares-come-true really do lose their sting. Most of the time it’s never as bad as you feared, and when it is, it usually isn’t later on. You’ll surprise yourself with your veracity, even in the face of truly awful things.

4. Be aware that realizing fears can help refine you

It’s also these somewhat painful experiences that help us define what we don’t want. Maybe the energy of the office you were interviewing for doesn’t suit you; that weepy, artistic guy wasn’t all you envisioned him to be; or being someone’s own personal servant isn’t in the stars for you. There are worse things.

Take these experiences as a means of reflecting and saying “This didn’t work. That didn’t fit. So what else is there?” We are built to adapt. Embrace this strength, which is your innate gift from nature, and you will overcome even your worst fears.

5. Know that you’ll do fine at the things you’re putting off because you’re afraid

Sometimes there’s a learning curve. Don’t let it freak you out. In fact, if you’re afraid because you’re challenged or trying something new, that’s great! Discomfort is a side effect of growth.

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The truth is, the things you’ve already learned in life build upon themselves, feeding into new tasks as you develop them. And you have a great capacity to absorb new information. There’s very little you can’t learn, and honestly you’re probably already fine at it. The only regret you’ll have is not having started sooner.  A little stress, a little discomfort — it’ll all pass. But making up for lost time? That’s pretty tough. Just do it. You’ll be fine.

6. Try harnessing your fear of not being “good enough” and use it to drive you to try harder

The hardest part of anything you put your time and energy into is the first action. Once you’re a mile into a daily walk, you’ve got a pace going and you’re not even thinking about how hard it was to get started, you’re just getting it done.

From improving physical health or physique to mastering a new computer program, the prospect of attempting something new can be daunting. The doubt in the back of your mind that you’ll succeed or negative self talk can keep you from ever trying. But the truth is, a failed attempt will not haunt you the way a lack of trying will.

When you start to doubt yourself, collect that fear and mentally fuel your desire to meet goals. Rather than succumb to feeling that anxiety spreading across your chest, consciously realize that once you get started, the best of your problem will soon be whittled away into something manageable. Don’t be okay with failure or complacency — use fear of those things to conquer them.

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7. Use fear that someone else is living your dream to focus on your goals

Jealousy and envy; we’ve been taught that these are detrimental dispositions, and to some extent they are. Any time you’re burning up energy occupied with someone else’s life instead of you own, you’re wasting time. Unless you can use those feelings as fuel for focus.

Do you see people living the life you want? Jealous? Don’t be! Realize that they’re as human as you, with their own sets of pitfalls, insecurities and imperfections. If you want certain things in your own life, rather than ooze with jealously, ask yourself, “Why am I feeling this way?” If the answer is, “I want to travel, be in a happy relationship, or start my own business.” you realize the root of your feeling and can turn your attention to questions like, “What steps can I take to make these things a reality in my own life?”

Once you start spending your energy on your own goals, you’ll find you’re too busy to steam over other people’s accomplishments. And when you do find out about what your peers are up to, you’ll be happy for them since you won’t be hampered with your own guilt or feelings of short-coming.

8. Bear in mind that failures are inevitable, but nothing helps you learn so well as failing.

From time to time, you will fail. Failure is part of the process. Any successful person will tell you that, at one time or another, they failed.

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These stories of failure are also consistently tied with astounding successes later. The failure offered some huge insight or corrected some faulty way of approaching a problem. There’s no teacher as impacting as the sting of failure, and no read on whether something works better than receiving a resounding “no” from the people in our lives, the market, or the universe.

9. Pat yourself on the back

Appreciate the strength it takes to work through your anxiety and congratulate yourself for that. And in the future, draw from that knowledge for more strength. Look back over the things you used to fear and how you overcame them. Analyze how you were wrong about certain things that used to paralyze you, and how you were right about the things you knew you were made to do. You’ll find new fears less intimidating and your accomplishments will steadily outweigh insecurities.

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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