If you have a large family you’ve probably experienced a variety of customs and celebrations growing up. You might have relatives spread all over the world. Your parents might be from two different cultural backgrounds, but your grandparents are from another. There are so many beautiful ways to experience life, but not everyone gets that. Unfortunately, there are some experiences that third culture kids know all too well.
Let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and the humorous parts of growing up in a multi-cultural family.
1. You dread the question: “Where are you from?”
This is an all too familiar scenario. You are meeting a bunch of cool new people and small-talk ensues. “Where do you work?” “Where did you go to school?” Your heart starts pounding. It won’t be long now until they ask the Origin Question. You wonder how you can condense your life story into two sentences: “My parents are from Location A, but I was born in Location B, and now I live in Location C…” Can we just skip to the next person, please?!
2. Holidays are always a big production.
Ah, the holidays. The cheer in the atmosphere, the nippy air, the how-do-I-divide-myself-across-the-continents-this-year? Remember, you gotta send those Christmas cards to your friends in Australia, your relatives in Europe and America, and somehow find your way into your mother’s arms in Asia come Christmas Day!
3. You spend a lot of time on Face Time, Skype, and WhatsApp.
Your phone isn’t running your life, your phone is your life! How else are you going to keep in touch with your mom, dad, brother, sister, childhood best friends, and everyone else without these lifesaving apps? Whether it’s just to say hello or send a picture of that new beau you’re dating, you better be sure everyone’s waiting for a mobile update.
4. You’re always in the state of missing.
When you’re in New York, you miss pochero the way they cooked it in the Philippines. When you’re in the Philippines, you miss the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, or the cafe con leche in Spain. You become attune to things you didn’t even know you noticed: the smell of lavender powder your mother always used, the inflections of speech, the way sweat would cling to your legs on those summer days your spent by the beach… It just makes you wax poetic.
5. You pick up accents like the Talented Mr. Ripley.
You’re a con artist in the way your accent magically switches depending on who you’re talking to. Most of the time, you sound like a regular American, but your friends think it’s hilarious how you sound glaringly different when you’re talking to your dad on the phone, or whenever you just got off the plane from some exotic locale. Which brings us to the next point.
6. You are bilingual.
Or most probably multilingual. You were modest about it, up until that one night when you had one too many margaritas and started talking to your friends in Spanish/French/Arabic.
7. Travel is like second nature to you.
You absolutely cannot relate to people who say it is their first time on a plane. What’s the fuss all about? You’ve got your neck pillow, a glass of wine, and hundreds of movies to choose from. Chill out. The airplane (and the airport) is your home. Mi casa es su casa, right?
8. A part of you will always feel like an outsider.
No matter where you decide to hang your fedora, you always feel a teeny-tiny bit on the outside looking in. You’re not completely from the place you’ve currently decided to call home, but you’re no longer from the other places that you used to call home either. The truth is, you’re not completely from anywhere. However, once you get over the violin music you started hearing when you had that thought, you realize that “home” and “belonging” is less about physical location, but how the people in your life make you feel.
9. You have friends on almost every continent.
Airbnb? Who needs that? Since birds of the same feather flock together, you have friends in New Zealand, Canada, Australia, Korea, Singapore, France, etc., etc., etc.
10. You suck at goodbyes.
Even though your life has been a blur of comings and goings, nothing can make you tear up faster than someone saying the G-word. If you’re anything like me, you probably substitute the hated G-word for “See you soon,” even though you know full well that you probably won’t see that person for the next year – or three.
11. You’re pretty open-minded.
Stinky tofu? Get in my mouth. Need to cover myself from head to toe to enter the temple? It’s handled. You’re taking me to the club in that little rickshaw? On it. You are very much aware of different cultures and traditions and know that what’s faux pas in one country may be the opposite in another. You’ve learned to go with the flow, keep your mind open, and appreciate the differences.
12. You’ve learned that it is indeed possible to have both roots and wings.
For better or for worse, life has been one crazy, global adventure. Even though sometimes you wish things were simpler (and fantasize about shipping all your family and friends into one town), you know that you wouldn’t exchange your experience for anything. Because all the places you’ve been, all the weird food you’ve eaten, all the different people you’ve met – they all make up who you are today.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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: