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9 Benefits to Being the Oldest in a Family

9 Benefits to Being the Oldest in a Family
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I am the oldest of 4 on my dad’s side and the oldest of 2 on my mom’s side. I married the oldest of 3. Unless we are an only child (which has its own idiosyncrasies), we are going to find good things and bad things in regards to our birth order. My husband and I have three sons and even though their personalities are very different (as are their looks), I wonder if some of what makes them who they are is based on the order in which they were born. For example, I wonder if my middle son loves that he was in the middle because he wasn’t the “guinea pig” the oldest might have been and he wasn’t the one youngest either.

Growing up, I didn’t like being the oldest. I realize now that the things I dreaded most was hearing the phrase, “You should know better.” Especially as this came back to bite me when I retaliated and I was usually the one who got caught. Even when I tried to just have my own space and keep my two little sisters (who are 11 and 14 years younger than I am) out of my room, they would always still find a way in. The scribbles in my junior high yearbook have all the proof I need. With my brother being just two years younger than me, we did a lot of things outside, including playing tackle football in our front yard. I still have the scar on my knee from when I tried to tackle him and I slid into a metal sprinkler.

Now that I am older (and still the oldest too), I wanted to share a few things that actually benefit the oldest sibling in any family. The burdens once placed on us now have a different twist and have shown me why those moments really weren’t so bad after all. If you are the oldest child, expect to hear a lot of, “You are so lucky”…even if you aren’t sure why.

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1. You set the precedence for every other child.

Every rule, every milestone will happen for the other kids only when it happens to you first. You are essentially where everything begins. You are the model for everything your brothers and sisters will ever get. You are the gauge for every important milestone — If you get a TV in your room at 12 years old, then your younger siblings will want to be 12 too. You are the example — whether it come to trying a musical instrument, going out on a date, or even just getting the chance to pick the paint color for your own room. That bar is set with you. In addition, you will get to try more things. Depending on your experience (and your parents’), chances are your siblings getting to try new things may get lost as the years go by. If you fall in love Boy Scouts, other younger brothers might be nudged in that direction too.

2. You never have hand me downs.

Let’s face it…we all like to have new clothes. There is just something about putting on something that isn’t found in any other family pictures with your brother wearing the same outfit 2 years earlier. However, having two of my sons just 13 months apart, their clothes were practically interchangeable. The only guarantee the younger ones were getting new clothes is if we were doing a family picture and we all needed to wear matching clothes. Even that backfired on me once — we just don’t talk about the striped sweaters anymore. If you are the oldest, you are going to get stuff with the tags still attached and sometimes, you are glad you have moved away from the velcro shoes that light up when you walk.

3. You never have to share a room.

Especially as you get older, the oldest child ends up getting his or her own room because “they need their privacy.” The younger kids don’t even know what that means, but they want it too. Growing up, I loved never having to share a room with my sisters and it meant I had one place in the whole house that was MY place. Growing up, it was where I could do my homework, listen to my music, and basically, whatever I wanted. The hardest part of having your own space was keeping it to yourself. In my case, my little sisters went to great extremes to be with me — even when I didn’t want to be with them. (Side note, today we are all very close and very good friends.)

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4. You are given more responsibility.

Sometimes, this was a burden more than a good thing. I became the automatic babysitter for my younger siblings, but many times because they required more care and attention, I usually was left to fend for myself more. Don’t worry, I never really got into any trouble when given the benefit of the doubt — I was too much of a goody two-shoes to try anything too crazy. But being the oldest meant you didn’t have to prove yourself right away. Your parents didn’t know what you would or would not try because they couldn’t compare you to “what your older brother or sister did.” Being the oldest, I became very independent as I transitioned into an adult.

5. You have more childhood pictures.

As a mom of three, I know I took more pictures of my oldest son that I did of the other two. I am hoping they don’t notice. With one child, your time and attention is devoted to that child — you don’t have to split your time between other  kids and you can even tag team your spouse to fill in when you need a break. With our three boys all under the age of six, we were completely outnumbered and because of that, we probably missed a few really great pictures of the younger two. Not that you have a shrine built in your honor, but finding a childhood picture for the yearbook is much easier for the oldest children. I’m just saying.

6. You are never pushed around.

Growing up, I remember my brother getting picked on in elementary school and once, he found me on the playground and told me what was going on. He never got made fun of for getting his “big sister” to stand up for him, but no one ever picked on me. The oldest becomes the “fighter” for the other kids when someone outside the family steps in. There is a phrase out there that reads something like, “I can pick on my little brother or sister, but you can’t.” Whether there is just two of you kids or 13 — the oldest ones are told to look out and protect the younger ones. No matter what.

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7. You are a role model.

I know, just what you want…someone watching your every move, right? Who didn’t get tired of the “He’s copying me!” game that never seemed to end until you just stopped letting your younger brother or sister “get” to you? Even at a young age, you represent who your younger sibling wants to be. They watch everything you do. They look up to you — even when you want them to look “the other way” or remind them to “not tell mom and dad.” (This is usually done once until they rat you out and then you are just done with telling them secrets.) The truth is — you are their hero and being related to someone “as cool as you” is something every little brother or sister wants. You just never know what they will remember and use later in life, so be careful what you show them.

8. You have your parents all to yourself.

Although you were probably too young to remember these years before your younger siblings came along, you got to have them at their best. Your parents were young and energetic about their new family. It was something they could manage with work, home, and other obligations. You had one schedule to work around when it came to your activities and the chances of both of your parents attending your events was pretty high. Once a younger sibling comes along, the parents have to split time and “tag Team” one another just to make sure they are where they are supposed to be. You are their life and they live theirs around you.

9. You get to be first…in EVERYTHING.

Let’s face it…this is the BEST part of being the oldest. You are the first to drive…the first to walk home from school by yourself…the first to have a date. Sometimes, you will even get to give input on important things like helping to name the new baby or the new pet. As the oldest, you are the first to move away from home, the first to graduate from high school, the first to make something of the family name. When your parents are talking about their kids, chances are you are mentioned first. You are the first to not have to hold mom’s hand in the grocery store and the first to celebrate Mother’s and Father’s Days. It is because of you that those days now have some significance.

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I will never know what it is like to be the middle or the youngest in a family and although there were some moments that I really despised being the oldest. Looking back now, I can appreciate the benefits of being the oldest and why those experiences help make me the person I am today. We can all find things to nitpick about because of where we fall in the birth order in our family. But perhaps, changing our perspective a bit can make everything a blessing, even if it was in disguise most of the time.

Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

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Michelle A. Homme

Author, Speaker, Quote Writer, Empowerment Coach

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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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