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Embracing Your Most Painful Memories Can Empower You

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Embracing Your Most Painful Memories Can Empower You

Today I met and chatted with a woman who is what I call an “old soul”. You know how sometimes you meet someone and when you look into their eyes, you can tell there is so much depth to them? They have the biggest smiles and can light up the whole room with their radiant energy, but deep down, if you look close enough, there is a lot of pain. “Old souls” are said to have lived many lifetimes, full of wisdom and hearts of gold. I honestly think I was meant to chat with her.

She probably has no idea. but she has inspired me to write this article. I always talk about how tomorrow is never promised and we can’t take life for granted. Well, I gotta practice what I preach and stop waiting for the right moment. I need to make the moment right and grab the bull by the horns, so here goes.

Where I came from

Now I know there are a lot of other people on this planet that have been through hell and back and are still experiencing circumstances a lot worse than I can ever imagine, but seeing I am spilling my inner most thoughts to the world, I may as well have the courtesy to introduce myself properly and  allow you to get a better understanding of my background and where I’ve come from. I was born in Manila, Philippines.

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My parents weren’t exactly rich or even well off. Safe to say we were considered “lower class”. I still remember being 3 years old and terribly hungry. I was with my Papa and there was no food to be had. All we had in our shoe box home (imagine a tiny tin shed that barely even fit a car), was a bowl of rice that had been sitting there for days. Millions of ants crawling through it. My stomach was eating itself and as much as I didn’t want to eat the rice, I was famished. As I am writing this, I can remember the feeling of the ants crawling around in my throat. My mother worked hard and eventually brought me to Australia. I’m extremely grateful for all she had done and so unbelievably blessed that I have been able to grow up in such a wonderful country. The culture change at first was tough, but I settled in fine. I lived a pretty normal life.

It wasn’t until I was fourteen that my life took a turn. Life as I knew it changed for me at this age. Everything I knew was turned upside down. To try and fit most of it into one sentence, I have lived on the streets, couch surfed, stayed between multiple friends’ homes, been raped, molested, found myself in some very abusive relationships, been a drug addict, stripped, tried to commit suicide a few times and there was even a time my heart stopped beating and the doctors actually declared me “dead”. This was due to the night before when several men gang raped me and had put too much Rohypnol aka roofies into my system, causing my heart to stop. I actually still remember the out of body experience I had when I was supposed to be “dead”, but that is another story. Actually now I think of it, I’ve escaped death quite a few times. My time ain’t over yet! Lol.

Understanding who I am now

Now in saying all of that, I am not your typical case of “girl with messed up issues”. Only a couple of extremely close friends know this about me. Some of my close friends don’t even know any of this. My family have only just started to learn a small portion of what happened to me all of those years. Any one that knows me now would not even guess that I had been through half of the things I have. They would say that I’m bubbly, outgoing, and full of life. It took me a long time to come to terms with everything that has happened.

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It took me falling down on numerous occasions for me to wake up to myself. Looking back, I never did see the light at the end of the tunnel, there were times I just wanted to give up. I never thought I was worth much and it has been a journey to learn to embrace and love myself. As much as some of the things in my past was crazily painful at the time, I can honestly say that I don’t regret a single thing. If it wasn’t for being abused by men, I wouldn’t have the courage and the guts to stand up for myself as I do now. Ask anyone that knows me, I’m a tough little cookie and I won’t take crap from anyone. I know when to keep my mouth shut, but I know when the push comes to a shove. I know my worth, what I deserve and will no longer accept anything less. I have been manipulated by the best and for that I am thankful, as I have learnt to read and see straight through people and their deception.

These days, I choose my friends wisely. Only the genuine, positive and ones that add value to my life are who I spend my time with.  If it wasn’t for knowing what it was like to have nothing, I wouldn’t know how to appreciate the life I have now. I am like a child eating cake for the first time. Little things make me so happy. Watching the sunrise and set makes my heart skip a beat, hearing the waves of the ocean, chasing waterfalls and admiring it’s beauty, strolling by the water, eating a simple meal, snuggling on the couch in the warmth, all of these things that can easily be taken for granted is what brings a smile to my face.

I know what it’s like to be alone and to feel that there is no one on the planet that gives a damn. So when it comes to anyone in need, I am the first to offer assistance. If someone wants to talk about their problems, I will be their shoulder. I know what it’s like to make the wrong choices and do things that other people would frown upon and because of that, I am anything but judgmental. I do not discriminate on race or status.

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Only look back to see how far you have come

I realise we are all flawed in our own ways and that is what makes us unique. It’s a messed up kind of beautiful. Each and every single one of us have a story. We have all felt pain and happiness in different ways. Everything that has happened to us has helped shape us into who we are now. Don’t let the past define you. Take all of that pain, all of those tears, all of those sleepless nights, all of those times you never thought you would get through and use it as motivation.

You made it through, you were stronger than you thought. Use that pain to your advantage, use it to become a better version of you. Use it to win. Not against anyone else, win against yourself. Beat that voice inside of your head that is filled with doubt. You are better than that. Embrace those painful memories, take a second and reflect on how they have shaped you and look at just how far you have come.

You are strong, you are courageous and you are beautiful. How good does it feel to look at how much you have grown? Think to where you were last year, how about 5 years before that? Look how far you have come. Be proud. I think you should feel empowered.

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Don’t you?

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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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