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10 Quotes From Jane Austen’s Emma That Can Teach Us About Life

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10 Quotes From Jane Austen’s Emma That Can Teach Us About Life

For much of this year, bookworms worldwide have been celebrating the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Emma, first published in December 1815. Possibly one of the most beloved of Austen’s six novels next to Pride and Prejudice, Emma is a wonderfully witty comedy of manners in which the fun-loving, slightly spoiled, but ultimately kind-hearted Emma Woodhouse sets herself up as a matchmaker for her friends and acquaintances while, perhaps predictably, failing to listen to the yearnings of her own heart until it’s almost too late. The novel has spawned numerous retellings and adaptations, and its hero, Mr. Knightley, stands second only to Mr. Darcy in the eyes of Austenites. In honor of the novel’s bicentennial, here are 10 quotes from Emma that can teach us how to love, how to laugh, and how to live happily ever after.

1. “I may have lost my heart, but not my self-control.”- Emma Woodhouse

After discovering that Frank Churchill has been secretly engaged to Jane Fairfax while blatantly flirting with Emma, Emma smiles, brushes herself off, and maintains as much dignity and self-composure as she can. The takeaway here is simple: sometimes you’re going to have your heart broken and your emotions toyed with. It’s not unnatural to feel wounded, but be sensible about it and don’t wallow.

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2. “I always deserve the best treatment, because I never put up with any other.”- Emma Woodhouse

Again, our heroine puts it succinctly; never settle for anything less than the best you feel you deserve in life, whether in your friendships, your workplace relationships, or your romantic partnerships.

3. “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.”- Mr. Knightley

Not altogether unlike Mr. Darcy, Mr. Knightley is a man of actions, not words, when it comes to expressing love. Anyone with eyes in their head—anyone except Emma, of course—can see how tenderly he loves her and holds her in high regard, even if he never says quite as much until the last possible moment. The kindest of words can sometimes be the most insincere if not accompanied by an action meant from the heart. (Frank Churchill, anyone?)

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4. “Men of sense, whatever you may choose to say, do not want silly wives.”- Mr. Knightley

Though Mr. Knightley offers these words to Emma as a caveat against puffing her friend Harriet Smith up above her station in life as the illegitimate daughter of, well, someone or other, his words here nonetheless encapsulate what we love most about Austen heroes: that they love and cherish women of good sense whom they can value as their equals rather than as playthings.

5. “I lay it down as a general rule, Harriet, that if a woman doubts as to whether she should accept a man or not, she certainly ought to refuse him.”- Emma Woodhouse

While Emma offers this advice to Harriet simply because she thinks the gentleman farmer Robert Martin beneath Harriet’s notice, Emma raises a fair point here; if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t, and the truth is that if Harriet—young and impressionable as she is—can’t make up her own mind about her feelings without consulting Emma, she isn’t quite ready to commit herself yet. Removed from Emma’s influence, she eventually comes, on her own, to discover that she still loves Mr. Martin and takes her happiness into her own hands. The salient point here, then, is quite simply, to look before you leap. If anything gives you pause, trust your instinct.

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6. “If things are going untowardly one month, they are sure to mend the next.”- Mr. Weston

Ah, good old Mr. Weston, ever-cheerful, ever-hopeful, always sure that Frank will come to visit, even when he doesn’t. Nothing dampens his spirits, and however exhausting we might sometimes find his relentless good humor, it reminds us that however bad things seem, they do eventually get better.

7. “Never could I expect to be so truly beloved and important; so always first and always right in any man’s eyes as I am in my father’s.”- Emma Woodhouse

Emma might be spoiled; she might be her father’s pet, but, say what you will, she devotes herself to his care and is rewarded with the highest regard, and until she recognizes a deeper love in Mr. Knightley, she need be content with nothing else. Sometimes we would do well to remember that no one can love us as our parents do, with all of our flaws.

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8. “How often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparation!”- Frank Churchill

Frank might be impetuous and a bit of a rake, but sometimes, we need to grab our pleasures where and when we find them and live in the moment because no one wants to live with the regret of having squandered an opportunity.

9. “A woman is not to marry a man merely because she is asked, or because he is attached to her, and can write a tolerable letter.”- Emma Woodhouse

This, like so much of Austen’s advice, is shot straight from the hip. The women of Austen’s world had perhaps fewer choices than women in the 21st century do, but she still recognized a key point in exercising agency in one’s own life; seizing an opportunity simply because someone places it in front of you isn’t choosing. It’s settling. Women in the 21st century do have choices, and marriage is just one of those choices. Societal pressure, or the fear of dying alone and being eaten by wild dogs or stray cats should never force your hand into something you don’t want.

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10. “Miss Bates had never boasted either beauty or cleverness. Her youth had passed without distinction, and her middle of life was devoted to the care of a failing mother, and the endeavor to make a small income go as far as possible. And yet she was a happy woman, and a woman whom no one named without good will.”- The Narrator

This description of the good-natured, exhaustively chatty spinster Miss Bates at once amuses and inspires. Relentlessly cheerful despite her reduced circumstances, Miss Bates counts herself supremely blessed with the good fortune of kind friends and neighbors who love her and see to her comfort, and this, in truth, is what we ought to value most in life.

Featured photo credit: Emma by Jane Austen via amazon.com

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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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