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How 24 Hours in Malaysia Changed My Life

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How 24 Hours in Malaysia Changed My Life

The first country I had ever gone to on my own, visiting no one and knew not a soul, was Malaysia. I’ve been there a few times now but I will never forget the first time I stepped foot there. It was only for 24 hours but those 24 hours changed my perspective and outlook on people and life forever.

They say that you grow the most when you’re out of your comfort zone. I have to say that I completely, utterly agree with this statement. Going overseas completely alone, not knowing how to speak the language and not knowing one single person in the whole country was definitely out of my comfort zone. I was 22 at the time and I must admit, I will never forget this trip. There were two people in particular that I had met in Kuala Lumpur, both who have left me with some valuable lessons.

The Taxi Driver

It was 2011, here I was just landed in Malaysia. I had no idea where I was going and was searching frantically to exit the airport. Where were all the signs in English? I just wanted a taxi and I found myself lost in the Kuala Lumpur Airport. After what felt like hours, I finally found the taxi rank and hopped into a cab.

“Where are you going?” The taxi driver asked. I buckled my seat belt as I replied, “I don’t know, where would you recommend?” There was silence. Then he laughed, “You don’t know where you are going? Who comes into another country and doesn’t know where they are going?”

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I was a little nervous when I responded. “Well, I was in Thailand for the last month and didn’t realise I could only be in the country for 30 days, so I left and am heading back there in 24 hours so I can stay another 30 days!” The look on the taxi driver’s face was priceless. Looking back, I can totally understand why he was so bewildered.

As he drove, I started flipping through a tour book. One of the “must sees” was China Town. “How about you take me to China Town and I can stay there?” Almost instantly, he shook his head. “No, no, no, you not stay in China Town… very dangerous place, especially if you’re alone.”

To be honest, at this moment, I realised just what I had done and a wave of panic rushed over me. Only I would jump on a plane and have no clue where I was going. Seriously, who does that? Now that this taxi driver knows I’m alone and have no idea where I’m going, anything could happen. I gulped. “Maz, chill out, he is so friendly and his eyes are genuine, nothing but good vibes,” a voice inside my head whispered.

The taxi driver must’ve felt my anxiousness so he started chatting to me. He told me of all the cultural differences and how to show courtesy to the elders. He taught me how to say hello and thank you, then we exchanged stories. I started to relax.

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The ride was really enjoyable and I learnt a lot in the half hour trip. He then offered to drive me into the city and stop at different hotels, while he waited outside until I found a place I liked. He didn’t charge me any extra than what we originally discussed. “Let me know what time you need to leave for the airport and I will come pick you up.” He smiled and waved as he drove off.

The Stranger on the Street

“Hello!” I turned around to see who was calling out to me, he was a tall, dark man that looked to be in his early to mid 30s. I was in the mall exploring Kuala Lumpur and was not expecting to be running into anyone. I walked faster. He followed and kept calling out to me. My heart started to beat a little faster as I quickened my stride. He still followed while calling out to me.

Suddenly a voice in my head whispered, “Maz, no one knows where you are and if something happens to you, how would they know what happened?” I cringed at the thought. What had I got myself into? Another voice popped into my head, “Maz, you don’t know anyone in this country and you could do with some company, go on and make a new friend!”.A strange feeling of calmness rushed over me. I stopped and turned around to the stranger.

We ended up walking through the streets while he showed me the sights. We went to a bar for a drink and he told me that he had been living there for the last 2 years studying. He told me stories of when he first arrived in Malaysia and the culture shock he experienced. He taught me of the cultural differences and their way of living. We had a great time and I learnt more about Malaysia chatting to him than I would have from walking alone.

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We left the bar and started wandering some more. He took me to wherever I wanted to see and he was such a gentlemen I felt quite at ease. A lot different to how I felt when he was calling after me in the mall. We then went and had some food, shared some laughs and he walked me home.

What I Learned

Before this experience, I had always been weary of others. I found it hard to trust someone and it took me a while to open up. I worried about people’s intentions before I even got to know them and was always quick to assume the worst before giving anyone a chance.

When I was ready to leave for the airport, the taxi driver was running late and I started to worry that he wasn’t going to turn up. “Maz, you should’ve just booked a cab instead of depending on a stranger.” As I said this to myself a cab pulled up in front of me. “Maz?” He called out. It wasn’t the same taxi driver, how did he know my name?

“Maz, I have to take you to airport. My friend very worried about you making your flight.” He said with a look of concern. “Where is he?” I asked. I was a little nervous that another cab driver had come for me instead. “He was in a car accident, he is in hospital now but he called me because he was worried about you missing your flight. He promised you he would get you to the airport. Jump in, we are running late!”

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I was in shock. “Oh my, is he okay?” A complete stranger, was worried about me. This stranger was in a hospital bed after a car accident and all he could think about was keeping his promise of getting this random 22 year old girl to the airport? I was speechless.

The guy I had met the night before had walked me home, on the walk home I started running scenarios in my head. Should I pretend I am staying somewhere else so he doesn’t know where I really am staying? Is he going to try and hit on me or even force himself on me? I was preparing for the worst. Instead, he walked me to the door of the hotel, asked for my Facebook so we could stay in touch and he shook my hand and thanked me for the evening.

Here I was thinking up of all the worse scenarios in my head, letting fear rule my mind, when I didn’t need to be anxious, nervous or even pondering on such negative thoughts. It was definitely an eye opener. I learnt that our intuition knows best and if we listen to our guts, it is usually spot on. I learnt that when you open up to others you open up to opportunity and the universe.

We shouldn’t assume the worse in people especially before giving them a chance. Our intuition knows best and we can feel if someone is bad news or has bad motives. If I hadn’t trusted anyone or allowed myself to open up, that trip would’ve turned out pretty boring. We shouldn’t be so quick to judge. It’s all about perspective. Is the glass half full or empty?

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Since then, I have taken this newfound attitude with me wherever I go and I tell you what, I have never made so many friends and connections with so many different walks of life. I’ve had a ball getting to know so many people from different backgrounds and some of which are now amazing lifelong friends who I love very dearly. The 24 hours I spent in Malaysia may have been short but it definitely was sweet. So sweet that it changed me forever.

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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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