There’s no doubt that a person’s twenties are often some of the most exciting—and most terrifying—years of their life. Finishing college (if attended), entering the workforce, possibly starting a family, or just trying to climb up the corporate ladder are things many people in their twenties are busy doing. However, for some of us, things seem to take a standstill by the age of 25 and we have no earthly idea what we’re supposed to do with ourselves. If you’ve found yourself in this boat in your twenties, don’t worry: it’s alright to feel lost at 25.
I remember the day I graduated high school. I was sure that my identity struggles and career struggles would take care of themselves. My peers and I eagerly went off to college and pursued different paths, but for some reason, I never seemed to find my path as quickly as I thought I would. I changed majors three times, had a slight identity crisis, dealt with some major points of grief, and spent most of my early twenties figuring out what I would finally finish up my college degree with. Throw in some odd jobs, financial aid stresses, family issues, and you’ve got an equation that comes out equal to a seriously lost individual.
By age 25, I had finally graduated with a degree I was happy with and passionate about: nutrition science. Even though I left college with a mountain of student loan debt, I was certain that I’d find a job and that things would just take care of themselves. Guess what? That didn’t happen. In fact, I spent the next two years looking for a job and feeling incredibly lost in life. Where had things gone wrong? What specific decision led me here?
If you’ve ever found yourself in these shoes or felt lost at some point in your life, don’t worry. Things do finally work themselves out and you’ll see the pieces of life start to come together within a few years. To help you get there much quicker than I did, here are a few tips I’d suggest anyone follow.
1. Don’t Let Your Major and Possible Job (Current or Future) Define You
Many times in our twenties, we have to work jobs that might not be what we set out to do with our lives. That’s okay. Don’t worry about your job defining who you are. If you feel you need to make a change, then by all means, do it. Don’t be afraid to go after your dreams, but also don’t worry if you have to work a few crummy jobs to make ends meet. In the meantime, when you’re off work, be sure to explore activities of all kinds that you’re passionate about, no matter how small they may seem. Doing this will often lead you to a career area you might be able to look into at some point. You’ll also be able to deal with life a little bit easier when you are participating in something you’re passionate about.
2. Try Your Best to Let Go of Past Failures
Whether it’s a job, relationship, school program, or anything else that just didn’t go like you planned, try your best to let it go. You can’t take it with you, but you can let it make you stronger and smarter. Don’t let your past define your future, always look ahead and just keep stepping forward. This makes you feel more accomplished and able to approach things that come your way with a new mindset. Failure and regret get you nowhere, but taking one step, day by day in a new direction, does.
3. Don’t Let Anyone Define Who You Are
It’s very easy to get caught up in relationships with friends, family, and partners during our twenties that end up making us dependent on others for happiness. Do your best not to let this happen. Having a strong sense of self is important for helping you not feel lost in life, and if something was to ever happen to one of these relationships, you’d be stronger for always being yourself. Don’t let others define who you are and what you want to do with your life. Be yourself and always remain true to you—no matter what.
4. Be Smart With Your Finances
This step is often hard for many people in their twenties when jobs can go up and down and debt often starts to pile up. No matter how little money you make, be smart with it. Remember that you don’t need to have the newest of everything, and minimalism is highly underrated. Being smart with your finances will give you an internal confidence and also help you be in a better condition if something unexpected happens in your future. If you don’t make enough money or are already having financial problems, try to find a side job or evaluate your spending right now to see how you can improve things. Look into free budgeting tools online and through mobile apps that can help you with this.
5. Reach Out to Others
It might also be helpful for you to reach out to others who are older than you and let them act as mentors during this time of confusion and loss. Not many people had their entire lives figured out at 25, so take advice from a variety of people and think about their experiences. This doesn’t mean you have to take all of their advice or repeat their choices, but insight from others can create new perspectives and possibly even new ideas that may lead you towards a better path.
Remember that no one gets an award at age 30 for having a perfect life, so if you’re in your mid-twenties and sweating things, don’t worry: it’s alright to feel lost at 25 or any other age. For more inspiration that may help you get through your twenties a bit easier, consider trying these 20 Things Highly Successful People Do in Their Twenties.
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: