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An Open Letter To All 20-Somethings: Don’t Panic!

An Open Letter To All 20-Somethings: Don’t Panic!
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The first and most important thing is: life does not get easier. Being an adult is not easy and won’t ever get any easier. Why? Because you will face new problems as life goes on. With each stage in your life, you will learn lessons that will help mold you into the person you were destined to be. Your twenties will be where most of those lessons are learned. I suppose this is not what you wanted to read. Perhaps you expected me to come up with something magnificent and inspiring. You were expecting something intelligent that will teach you the secrets to living an easy life.

I am here to tell you that there is no secret in the world that will keep your heart from breaking, dreams from crashing, and your faith from fading at some points in your life. Your best chapters in your life will most likely be written in your twenties—you just don’t know it yet. Your heart mends, your dreams change, and your faith comes back… so don’t panic. Here are some things to keep in mind.

1. You must learn to let it be.

Planning your life down to the minute is not the way to live. You are in your twenties… you absolutely are not expected to have everything figured out, so stop acting like it! I have found that if you plan everything down to the very second, life gets even more hectic and you aren’t exactly living.

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That 10-year plan that you wrote in high school is really more like a guideline and not exactly a map to your life. It is great to have goals, but we are our own harshest critics. If you don’t get that call back for your dream job at 22, don’t be too hard on yourself. Pick yourself up and keep trying. That doesn’t necessarily mean keep calling the company that didn’t call you back either. If a door closes in your face, let it be. Keep going because there are so many other doors to knock on and the one you walk through will be the right one.

2. Forever isn’t really forever in your twenties.

This goes for every aspect of your life. This goes for what you think is a dream job, where you want to live, who you want to be with. Almost everything in your life at the moment is temporary. At this point in your life, it is okay to not be sure of what you want to be when you grow up (even if you feel as if you are grown up). As of right now, I have been a barista, served in the military, worked in a daycare, worked with small business owners to fix their credit, been a barista again, become a wedding planner, written articles for a great website, and now am planning events for one of the greatest companies I have ever worked for. Trust me, nothing is permanent in your twenties. You will constantly change your mind—and that is completely okay!

Speaking of things not being permanent, do not beat yourself up over your current “love.” Don’t go looking around for the person you are going to spend the rest of your life with at this age. If your soulmate happens to stumble into your life, perfect! If not, that’s okay. Right now, you are really figuring things out. Heartbreak pains go away with good company and laughter. Keep your friends close and you will soon get over it. Also, when your friends tell you that someone is toxic, listen to them. More than likely, they are right. If they see that the person you love does not treat you the way you should be treated and say something to you, do not ignore it. They truly care for you and only wish the best for you.

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One last note on this subject: if the person you love lays a hand on you, they do not love you. That truth is plain and simple… THEY DO NOT LOVE YOU. Stop making excuses for their awful behavior and cut them lose. You will eventually forget their phone number, where they live, and their name. Trying to fit them into your life is like you trying to fit a piece of a completely different puzzle into the one you are working on. It will fit for now, but eventually you will need to get rid of it to move on and complete it. They will only hold you back from becoming the amazing person you are meant to be.

3. Your giant group of friends will eventually become a small circle.

At this point in your life, you will start to go from about a hundred friends to about five really good friends that you can trust. Get rid of the ones that are negative all the time, get rid of anyone that says they “love you,” but abuses you either physically or mentally. None of these people are worth your time. At this point in your life, the sky is the limit, but you have to get rid of the extra baggage before you fly. I know that we all try to give people the benefit of the doubt, but if they are keeping you from growing up and getting out there in the world, you do not need them.

You will find good people out there that will want nothing but to see you happy and successful. Don’t be afraid of the world—there are a lot of nice people that will be willing to grow with you and experience what life’s new chapter has in store.

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4. Now’s the time to see the world.

It is “too expensive,” you say? Let me break it down for you, okay? Let’s say you buy a large cup of coffee at your local café for about $5.95 every single day for a year (this is excluding the second time you go there to get your afternoon cup), how much would you have? The math is $5.95 x 365 = $2,171.75. That is a trip to Mexico, Canada, another state, Europe, and the list goes on the longer you save. Travel is something that everyone should experience. Seeing the world and experiencing a different culture is an eye-opener. So get your passport ready and get out in the world for a bit.

5. Slumps aren’t only for baseball.

You will go through several slumps in life. You will accept job offers that leave you baffled on your first day. You will have some tough times financially, you will experience heartbreak, and you won’t get called back for that interview, but just think of it as a slump. This is one of the hardest lessons to learn: you just can’t be in control all of the time. Things might not go as you planned them out when you were 18 years old, but you’ve just got to roll with the punches. Your twenties are supposed to be the best part of the roller coaster called life.

All in all, these are going to be the best and worst years of your life. Do not be afraid to make memories. Don’t be afraid to go to the party tonight because of the hangover tomorrow—trust me, they get worse as you get older, so do it now!

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Dream big, smile often (even when you don’t feel like it) and meet new people so you can narrow it down to the friends that you are going to keep for life. Most importantly, you need to learn. Learn as much as you can because we are expected to make countless mistakes. So by all means, make them. You are still growing and still learning, and that is okay.

Featured photo credit: Alex/ College Graduation via flickr.com

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Margielyn Musser

Event And Volunteer Coordinator / World Traveler

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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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