We all despise being lied to. If asked what characteristic we least like in a person most of us would say dishonesty. Yet, sometimes the person telling us the biggest lies is the person looking back at us in the mirror. Yes, we lie to ourselves all the time. We lie because we are afraid, we feel inadequate, or we feel ashamed. We believe that if we were different somehow or if we were right for doing the wrong things we did our lives would be better. The truth is, the best life is the life we live when we’re completely honest with ourselves about ourselves. Here are seven signs you are lying to yourself and don’t know it so that you can finally learn to tell yourself the truth:
1. Your emotions don’t match your words
Have you ever tried to convince yourself that you were not hurt or angry, but your emotions told a different story? You have tears running down your face or steam coming out your ears even though you say everything is fine. Your emotions may even catch you off guard. You wonder where did these tears come from or why you are so mad. When your emotions do not match how you say or think you feel there’s a good chance that you are lying to yourself. Facing the truth about how you feel allows you to address what is or is not working in that moment. Acknowledge how you really feel and express those feelings constructively. If you’re hurt don’t be afraid to say you’re hurt. Honesty is where true healing or resolution comes from.
2. Your behavior doesn’t align with your proclamations
“This year is going to finally be my year. I’m going to lose weight, start a business, and fall in love.” Many people make wishful proclamations such as these every January, but few people actually put forth any significant effort. If you’re not putting action behind what you say you want you’re probably lying to yourself about what you want or how bad you want it. Ultimately, you feel like a failure because you didn’t accomplish your goal. In reality, the goal might not be what you really wanted. It may be what you think you need in order to have something else. For example, you may tell yourself you need to wear a certain clothing size to attract a mate. Because you’re not being honest with yourself about what you really want your behavior is out of alignment. If your behavior does not align with your proclamations ask yourself why not. Be open to reconsidering your goals.
3. You make extreme statements
You are either paranoid or extreme or both. If you think everyone is out to get you or that you never get any good opportunities you’re lying to yourself. Or you make extreme statements such as, “There are no good men around.” You are committed to one vantage point without healthy consideration of other possibilities. You avoid rational ideas. You may be hiding behind an insecurity that you have. Could it be that you’re afraid of success or falling in love? As long as you believe extreme, irrational thoughts you don’t have to make an effort or put yourself out there. You may feel safe, but you won’t achieve what you really want. Consider all possibilities available to you. Consider new thoughts.
4. You feel inauthentic
People who are lying to themselves sometimes wonder, “Who am I?” You’ve been inauthentic for so long you no longer know who you really are or feel comfortable in your own skin. You don’t know what you want. You don’t know what makes you happy anymore. You laugh even if the joke wasn’t funny. You go places you don’t enjoy. You buy things you cannot afford. You’ve lost touch with yourself so you try to fit in with everyone else. Take note of how you feel throughout the day. What things make you feel alive? What things make you feel inauthentic or uncomfortable with yourself? Follow the things that make you come alive.
5. You are not open to input from others
Often there are times you don’t even want to know or accept that you are lying to yourself. You believe that what you believe is the only thing that matters. Therefore, you shut out any commentary from outsiders. You don’t want their input, differing perspective or opinion. This would only shine light on the fact that you are lying to yourself and force you to own up to it. Learn to accept feedback from people you trust so that you can know your truth.
6. You are never wrong
No matter what happened it wasn’t your fault. Even if it was your fault you convince yourself that it was not. Your last breakup was her fault. So was the breakup before that one and the previous one too. The problem with this is that you will never right your wrongs or learn from your mistakes. You tend to repeat the same scenario over and over again with different people or places. You lie to yourself because you cannot accept that maybe it’s you. Let me assure you, it is you. And that’s okay. Learn from it, grow, and do better in the future.
7. You find yourself in over your head
You go after things you’re not equipped to handle because you’ve over-exaggerated your abilities. You find yourself in situations where you can’t deliver what you said you would deliver. You tell yourself you can do anything. You’re not being honest about your skill set, personality or knowledge. Be honest about what you can and cannot do. What you can’t do today may be achievable in the future if you educate yourself. The key is to first acknowledge that you don’t know what you don’t know.
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: