Most people are aware that marriage takes work– a lot of work. We know this. We’ve heard it over and over. We’ve seen the statistics on divorce and read countless articles telling us how hard marriage is.
And yet…somewhere along the way, we still become seduced by the fairy tale. I don’t know, maybe romantic comedies are to blame, or social media platforms that are littered with posts of drop dead gorgeous couples, frolicking, having fun and appearing to be engulfed in each other’s love. I admit–I am guilty of both. I love celebrating the love my husband and I share and I love seeing other couples who are madly in love. I love–love. But the truth is we only display five percent of our lives on social media. We hide the struggle, the grind and the fight that actually produces those glamorous photos and sustained our 20 year marriage.
Marriage is a daily choice and not a one time event
One of the most popular misconceptions surrounding marriage is that once you make it through the wedding day–with all of it’s pomp and circumstance–say your “I do’s,” you ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, most people spend more time, energy and resources planning their wedding day than they do planning the rest of their lives together. Marriage is a daily commitment. Every day you wake up you must consciously decide to commit to your spouse–for better or worse. Good, firm and solid marriages are not created through the images on Facebook and Instagram. They are forged in the mundane day-to-day dealings and through the difficult times. For every picture I have posted of us laughing, smiling and engaging in romantic nonsense there is a hidden moment of agony accompanied by tear stained cheeks, tousled hair and two people at their absolute worst trying to figure it all out. That is the plain, ugly reality of marriage.
5 Ways to achieve the true fairy tale marriage and strengthen your relationship with your spouse
So you’ve accepted the fact that your marriage is going to be work. Now what? Here are a few very simple and practical principles–that if applied consistently–will greatly increase the likelihood of a long and viable marriage.
Develop and cultivate a team mentality— You are a team. The team is bigger than it’s individual members. Understand that you will be called on to sacrifice for the good of the team. Sometimes you get to be the star and other times you don’t. Learn how to “take one for the team,” because when the team wins–all the players do too. Selfishness is the ultimate enemy of marriage and the underlying cause of the demise of so many.
Accept your spouse for who they are and work with what you got— Marriage is an “as is” transaction. Good, bad and everything in between your spouse is who they are and you married all of it. Trying to change your spouse is an exercise in futility and dishonoring to him or her. They are who they are. Cultivate the good and work through the bad. The true essence of marriage is learning to love your spouse–as is–unconditionally.
Treat your spouse better than you treat others— This principal rests on the border of doable and insanely impossible. It is one of the hardest principles to practice but one that yields the most rewards. When you have a conflict with a co-worker, you don’t jump in their face screaming obscenities and call them unsavory names (if you do, you have bigger issues–seek professional help). What most people do is plan what they are going to say and figure out how to best approach the situation. Your spouse deserves so much more respect, leniency, kindness and understanding than any other person (except– of course–your children) in your life.
Make a plan for attacking heavy issues and learn to pick your battles— Your spouse is going to get on your nerves. Their habits, moods and idiosyncrasies are going to rub you the wrong way at times. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should argue over these mild infractions. Learn to let things go. Everything need not be a fight. When dealing with larger issues that vastly impact the marriage, develop a strategy and attack the issue not your spouse. Remember you are a team and the problem is the opponent. Find the right time, place, tone of voice and choice of words to ensure that your message and intentions are clear. If tempers flare– take a break. Keep your focus on the issue at hand and never turn on your spouse. Mastering the art of communication is key when trying to conduct negotiations.
Forgive and let go–Marriage is one big exercise in forgiveness. If you can’t forgive and can carry a grudge forever– DO NOT get married. Admittedly, some infractions are harder to forgive than others and forgiveness does take time. However, you must actively work on moving toward forgiving your spouse. You have to surrender the right to punish your spouse and absolve them of their wrong doing. It is the only way to ensure your marriage keeps moving forward and It’s for the good of the team.
At the end of the day, marriage is for grown folks. It takes maturity, determination, tenacity and unconditional love to create and sustain longevity. Making an intentional commitment every day is the secret to happily ever after.
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: