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Toxic Behaviors That Are Making You Unhappy (And You Don’t Even Notice)

Toxic Behaviors That Are Making You Unhappy  (And You Don’t Even Notice)
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Toxic behaviors are those destructive things which we do, or allow, that rob us of being truly happy. We all deserve to be happy, but if you’re not truly happy, you’re unlikely to be healthy mentally, emotionally and even physically.

These behaviors are extremely harmful and can have a huge impact on your wellbeing, leading to an overall feeling of dissatisfaction with ourselves and with life. However, you can conquer these behaviors preventing you from living a fulfilling life.

There are a huge range of behaviors, too numerous to mention here. However, we’ve compiled a list of those often overlooked habits which often go unnoticed until it’s too late. So let’s have a look at some of those toxic behaviors and how you can get a handle on them, so you can get back to your bliss.

You people-please

Wanting to make others happy is a wonderful thing. It shows empathy and consideration. Like most things, however, too much of a good thing can very well be a bad thing, and where being a people-pleaser is concerned, it can lead you down a path of extreme unhappiness. Bending over backwards to make others happy when you’re clearly unhappy is soul destroying. How will you ever discover what truly makes you happy if you’re busy trying to make others happy? Don’t allow fear of rejection or of failure to hinder your life’s walk. You’ll only end up resenting yourself. Most importantly, people-pleasing carries with it a myriad of problems including stress, trust issues, feeling unworthy and undeserving, and finding yourself in abusive relationships. Don’t do it! Give yourself permission to be genuinely happy, and stop continuously putting others’ happiness above your own.

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You deserve to be happy, but people-pleasing won’t get you there!

Once you begin to understand this, you’ll soon discover what truly makes you happy. The kind of happy that is specifically shaped to you.

You compare yourself to those you don’t know

It’s no secret that most people compare themselves to people they know, but what about those who you’ve never even met? It may sound crazy: how can anyone possibly be jealous or compare themselves to someone they’ve never even bumped into? With Instagram, Pintrest, Facebook, Snapchat and an array of other social outlets, it’s virtually impossible to escape the constant influx of seemingly perfect lives. Without even knowing it, you’re consuming the image of happiness and perfection through the lens, and beyond a sphere seemingly out of reach to you. It is important to understand that happiness is available to everyone (read: everyone!), including you. Comparing yourself to others is a sure fire way to make you unhappy.

It is also important to note that so often, the images you see may portray an impossibly perfect image, or life, but the reality may be very different. Remember, those people in the images you come across are human, too, and have ups and downs like everyone else.

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So rather than feeling intimated and discouraged by what you see, be happy with who you are.

You keep yourself busy on purpose

In today’s society, busy equals productive. Unfortunately, this is most definitely not the case. The habit of keeping oneself busy can be as simple as not wanting to appear lazy, or as toxic as not wanting to face life (reality). Either one is negative, and will destroy your happiness over time when you realize your keep-busy attitude hasn’t made you productive at all, but stressed out, thoroughly unhappy and physically sick. Stop with the facade, and stop focusing on being busy for the sake of it, but rather focus on actually being productive, which means using your time effectively, prioritizing and resting when you need to.

You don’t speak up when something’s wrong

Bottling things up inside is probably one of the most toxic things you can do to yourself. Not only does this have a negative impact on your overall happiness, it has a negative impact on your relationships, work and can physically make you ill. No one is saying to vent every single gripe you have with the world or with others, but it’s important you speak up when you know you should. Refuse to be silent when things are making you unhappy. Calmly and assertively address those you feel are taking advantage of you, and confidently speak up when you feel disrespected.

You, like all of us, have a right to be happy, feel safe and be considered, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

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You equate love with pain

I’m not sure where this all started, but somewhere along the line, the idea of everlasting love became synonymous with being tortured, drained and “hanging in there”. Love shouldn’t be an endurance program. Love shouldn’t be a pain tolerance test. The moment we equate love with pain, we invite any and everything into our lives, and chalk it down to real love. Unfortunately, what that also means is that we begin to put up with an awful lot of junk in the name of love. This is a slippery slope one should never go down. The beauty of love is that when it’s real, it allows you to grow together, support each other and wade the storms, together.

So approach love with the idea of progress and development; sustainability, rather than endurance. This will ensure you are being true to yourself, and your love, by not attributing the alternative with ideas of inability or weakness.

You don’t listen to yourself

We all have an inner voice. This inner voice is tailor-made to you and benefits you greatly. Listening to that voice – your intuition, your gut – and taking heed of its warnings and truths will not only help you filter out unhelpful external noise, but force you to face and recognize those things preventing you from being truly happy. It’s not easy to face those things you would prefer to just forget, but there’s huge benefits to actually listening. 1) It’s private. The tête-a-tête you have with yourself remains between you and you. No one needs know a single thing! 2) It will help you face your fears, head on. 3) It forces you to stop running, so you can begin walking towards your bliss.

Don’t ignore your inner voice. It has all the keys to your happiness.

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You don’t state what you really want out of life

Going along with the crowd will ensure you get lost in it! By actually thinking about what you want out of life, you give yourself the chance to be honest. Being honest with yourself, and with others about what you want will ensure you’re walking down your own path and not hijacking someone else’s. It means you won’t compare yourself to others as you know your path is leading you somewhere specific to you. It also prevents you projecting your ideas and ideals on others, allowing everyone the freedom to be themselves.

So, what do you really want out of life?

Try this: take a piece of paper, write your name at the top in big bold letters (encircle it, draw around it, make it stand out, make it yours), and state, underneath, what you want out of life (not what others want for you or expect of you, or what everyone else is doing). Try not to think in terms of big or small goals, as this will only mean you’re comparing your goals to those of others. This is your journey, remember. Carry this piece of paper around with you marking off, as you go along, those things you’re accomplishing for yourself. Bringing the focus back to you is guaranteed to get your happiness back on track.

You allow fear to imprison you

Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of never being happy. Fear of being too happy. Yep, living in fear will make you pretty unhappy! Fear has a way of stopping you from enjoying almost everything, and allowing fear to consume you and dictate how you live is a prison sentence. Fear is toxic if it robs you of your happiness and forces you to live a life you have no desire or passion for. Make the decision to no longer allow fear to rule, or shackle you.

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When approached right (and handled!), fear can be a saving grace, a signifier, and a window to an unrealized dream.

Featured photo credit: Photo by Jordan McQueen via magdeleine.co

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Patricia C. Osei-Oppong

Writer, Poet, Marketer

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

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

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