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Sometimes You Have To Stop And Smell The Roses

Sometimes You Have To Stop And Smell The Roses
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Sometimes you can be chastised as an introvert for being a pessimist. Whether you feel it’s a choice or if you simply could never stop being so negative, in some way you may actually like it. Let’s face it we all see that overly happy person at work, serving us food, or taking our order for something, and we think “How can they be so happy?”. So many videos and posts urge us to have this outlook on life. They say we would be much better off being positive and happy. What if we don’t want to? Some people just want to watch the world burn, and nothing will stop us from having such a nihilistic viewpoint, which we prefer. So what are some of the earmarks of liking your own unhappiness?

When the glass is always half empty

For as long as I can remember I have thought of the glass as being half empty. If a glass is presented to you that has a liquid level of exactly half of its volume, what would you say the level of it is? Is it half full, or half empty? Recently I have changed my response to a more realistic one. I just tend to say that there is only half there. But with that new response there is a resistance to change; for ages I had thought of the glass as being half empty. The question of the glass has always been one of optimism versus pessimism. Now that I am older and wiser I know that being negative is not always the best thing, yet my reluctance to even simply say that the glass may be half full is apparent. Now there’s just half a glass. Baby steps.

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When you feel stuck, and put conditions on your happiness

There was a point in my life where I had begun to feel positive. I had positive thoughts and emotions, my relationship was going well, and my work life couldn’t have been better. This terrified me! I had never had these feeling before; I’ve never been a happy person, luckily it didn’t continue and my unhappiness reared it’s ugly head once more. I once again stumbled about life trying to find my way and the ultimate goal of my ideal happiness, is that really the life for me?

That’s right, I too aspired to be happy. But there’s a catch– I put so many conditions on my happiness that it became almost unattainable. I’d like to make X amount of money, live in X house, and have the partner that has X qualities. What happens when we are trying to attain these goals? We’re usually stricken with the kind of unhappiness that I’ve felt over the years. And when we do meet these goals for happiness? Well it just so happens that more goals are placed on the pile to achieve before we can become a “happy person”– that way we are always unhappy.

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When your personality separates you from others and makes your unhappiness grow

Some people are more comfortable with a solitary life, they would rather stay in and not go out. An introverted person will avoid personal encounters with even the people they are most familiar with. It’s not that they don’t want talk, they just won’t have the sort of open and happy conversation you’re looking for. Introverted people know the daily struggle of being seen as shy or awkward, and when they open up and talk they hear things like “Wow I really brought you out of your shell.”, or they’re told something about how well they speak. It’s wasn’t that they were never a good speaker and couldn’t speak, maybe they just didn’t value the low brow conversations they had heard before? As introverts, we really don’t like small talk.

When you feel the whole world is against you

Some of my relationships are the source of my happiest times. Most of my relationships, however, have been a headache, or ended in heartbreak. The difference between the two is subtle. Some relationships fall together like they were meant to be. They don’t always have to be romantic ones, in fact most of my happiest relationships are with friends of the same sex. My unhappiness in relationships has been the result of failed romantic endeavors. If you’re currently single then all of your romantic endeavors up until this point have failed. With romance, it’s a mutual thing, and you have to look at the cause of the failure; you can’t say that it was entirely their fault. Maybe you will be destined for unhappiness, and if you’re looking for love on Tinder or other dating apps this is likely. The only form of comfort we can hope for is to share our cynical perspective and unhappiness with someone equally as unhappy as we are.

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Conclusion: Live for today

I won’t tell you some spiritual nonsense about learning to love yourself. This plight is certainly not due to the fact that one cannot love the inner self that you retreat to when society seems cruel and uncaring. When all your relationships have failed you and even your family and close friends have grown and become distant you will need to find something to hold on to. You can read a book or other helpful articles on Lifehack.org on the same topics.

If you’ve found that the world inside yourself has become grey and dull from the unhappiness you experience find another world to explore. Life can be mundane at best, and wherever you travel humanity has a way of being indistinct in certain cruel or pernicious ways.

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But find the love, find it whenever you can and hold on to it. It has a nasty habit of slipping through your fingers sometimes but if you feel you have lost it, just remember there is a whole world out there where you can look for it. It may be in the tiniest of books, or URLs. It could be in the smallest laugh of a child or whimper of a baby animal, and sometimes when you’re looking for too long, it might be right inside yourself that you find the cure for your unhappiness. The help you can give to others, even a stranger, can open up the most trod upon of hearts and emotions. This too, I’m sure you will hate, for it is a thankless act.

Featured photo credit: ☻☺ via flickr.com

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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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