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I Didn’t Know I Secretly Enjoyed My Unhappiness, I Thought I Was Just Unhappy

I Didn’t Know I Secretly Enjoyed My Unhappiness, I Thought I Was Just Unhappy
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Everywhere we turn in modern society we are bombarded with advice on how to achieve the most elusive commodity in the world: Happiness.

Magazine articles scream out their top tips for happiness from glossy front pages. TV can easily lead us to believe happiness can either be bought or simply obtained through swallowing the latest and greatest anti-depressant pill. In short, there is a multi-million dollar industry built around the premise of living “Happily Ever After.”

So, where’s the advice on being unhappy?

I’ve yet to see a book on the Top 10 Tips To Misery hitting the New York Times Bestsellers list. Why isn’t the blogosphere trending with articles on Living Miserably Ever After? Put simply, it doesn’t sell. Most people already have enough unhappiness in their lives. The last thing they wish to seek is how to garner more of it in their lives. However, once we dig a little deeper it becomes clear that this isn’t always as clear cut as it seems.

Sometimes we choose to be unhappy

What about the friend who’s always getting involved with unavailable men, or that colleague who actively seeks out things to get annoyed by? Why are they seemingly edging ever closer to making themselves unhappy? Actually, when you really think about it, many of us spend much of life making ourselves miserable by choosing to stay in a bad marriage, or refusing to quit a soul-sucking job. Whether we initially began with the very best intentions and life’s complications got in the way, or whether we made these choices without much forethought, the point is that sometimes in life we simply get in our own way, sit our asses down, and refuse to budge.

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Which leads me to ask that pertinent question:

Do we secretly get a thrill out of being unhappy?

In my case, the answer to this intensely difficult question was a big “Heck Yes!” I spent close to five years being miserable. No, I wasn’t locked up in solitary confinement, nor was I living in a war zone. The source of my misery came simply as a result of my own choices. These choices were well-intentioned at the time. In the beginning, I brushed up against happiness enough times to feel some semblance of contentment. I was in a healthy relationship and had a great job that enabled me to live in Los Angeles. However, time passed, circumstances changed, and I suddenly found myself at the mercy of my own unhappiness.

I did nothing to change my circumstances.

The company I had spent many years working for in LA closed its doors and I was transferred over to the New York office, bringing my long-term boyfriend with me. At first, things were great… until they weren’t. New York City is a tough town and people generally love it or hate it. My boyfriend hated it. In fact, he made it known every single day. Meanwhile, I was dealing with a high-stress job that resembled nothing to what I had initially signed on for.

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Essentially, I was stuck in an unhappy relationship and an unhappy career. Yet for years and years, I did absolutely nothing about it. I would spend the working day stressed and unhappy only to come home to more stress and unhappiness. There was no escape, at least in my mind. These were my choices and I was sticking with them – happiness be damned.

I was ignoring my needs, allowing others to control me, and catering to others until I was exhausted. I began to resent my own self-imposed obligations. In hindsight, there must have been a part of me that was secretly getting a thrill out of my circumstances, like being a martyr, if you will.

Personal martyrdom involves a vicious cycle of self-sabotage. In my case, I was repressing my own needs, which ended up making me feel controlled by the demands of my job and relationship. There is no fulfillment in this. Believe me. However, I still stayed.

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I refused to ask for and receive help.

Another challenge of embracing martyrdom is to open up to asking for and receiving help. I was too proud and stubborn to admit that my picture-perfect life in NYC was turning into a nightmare. I refrained from reaching out and speaking the truth to my friends which simply isolated me further. I struggled to connect with people on a deeper level because I was too scared to admit that my life was unraveling.

On top of that, I was slowly falling in love with my own misery because it was all I’d known for such a long time.

My continual acts of unnecessary self-sacrifice were a way of making me feel good about myself whilst masking the actual act of self-sabotage. I was giving up on hopes, dreams, and passions that would make me truly happy.

Eventually, my misery got the best of me and started to manifest itself in physical illness which was the wake-up call that I was so desperately seeking. Time was quickly passing me by and I couldn’t afford to waste another decade putting my life on hold whilst working a job I hated and staying in a relationship that was well past its sell-by date.

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Choosing differently…

Finally, I summoned up the courage to quit both my job and relationship and chose to start all over again. Looking back at this time has taught me so many valuable lessons on the seductive power of embracing your own unhappiness. The most important lesson of all was that being stuck in a victim mindset does just that. It keeps you stuck. It gave me something to complain about and most importantly held me back from attempting to follow my dreams.

Whilst my current life resembles nothing of the misery I went through for so many years, I still look back at that time as a pivotal moment in my life. It taught me so much about my own personal shadow behavior, it showed me what I don’t want out of life, and that my self-sabotage was keeping me stagnant.

Most importantly, it gave me the wake-up call that I needed. It gave me the opportunity to finally get out of my own way and open myself up to the belief that I was worthy of happiness.

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I Didn’t Know I Secretly Enjoyed My Unhappiness, I Thought I Was Just Unhappy 5 Things You Should Keep In Mind When You Are Overcoming A Hard Time 5 Steps To Let Your Negative Emotions Out 13 Things to Remember if You Love A Sensitive Person These 10 Things Will Happen When You Start Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

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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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