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Last Updated on December 8, 2020

Why Holding a Grudge Is Bad For You (And How to Let It Go)

Why Holding a Grudge Is Bad For You (And How to Let It Go)

Holding grudges holds us back, but healing can’t always happen overnight.

When we forgive, we free ourselves.

“Sometimes closure arrives two years later, on an ordinary Friday afternoon, in a way you never expected or could have predicted. And you cry a little, and you laugh a little, and for the first time in a long time…you exhale. Because you are free.” — Mandy Hale

Letting go creates growth. Then, we can heal. Our hearts become open again to others if we let a grudge go. We stop seeing ourselves as victims but rather victors. This doesn’t lessen the accountability you may give another person. It just ensures that you do not mishandle them or yourself, or anyone else for that matter.

People may hurt us, but they don’t have to have power over us.

Forgiveness free us from the pain and the grip of the past. There may be a reason for anger. The grudge may be justified. But it also may be keeping you living a happier life.

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Forgiveness is something we do for ourselves, not for the benefit of others. It is the healthier, stronger way to be. However, it does not mean that person must stay in our lives. Still, if you don’t try, you won’t find out if it’s possible for a person to be redeemed.

Redemption is possible. You would want someone to give you the chance to be better. So, find it in your heart to let the grudge go. Holding a grudge won’t get you anywhere faster and will ultimately slow you down.

Release the need to prove yourself right all the time. Release the need to assert your needs over another’s. Release the grudge, even if you still have to say goodbye.

Why Holding a Grudge Is Bad For You?

Research has found that people who hold grudges, being less prone to forgive, had higher blood pressure and were more likely to die from heart disease.[1] It also affects your immune system and metabolism, as well as organ function.

Overall, your physical wellbeing is impacted not by the pain you feel towards the person’s actions but your holding onto the grudge that doesn’t allow you to see anything else[2]. You live in the problem rather than the solutions. You lie to yourself that you’re fine when everything is falling apart. You shorten your life with the anger you hold. You lessen its quality, too.

Not only does holding a grudge have physical effects, but one can develop depression and anxiety. It makes you unhappy, plain and simple. It makes you angry, which creates stress over the situation. It is widely accepted that stress is bad for your health, both mental and physical. Your immune system may remain compromised if you don’t compromise with the person.

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Grudges keep you replaying your hurt feelings and fueling the anger that wants the other person to feel pain. It blinds you to better ways. You may find yourself doing the very thing that hurt you to others if you don’t forgive and find healing. In the end, you may become the worst version of yourself in order to try to feel that you are not a victim of their mistakes.

Holding a grudge can often lead to focusing on the negative, which can hold you back from living a life of gratitude and joy.

If you develop the habit of holding a grudge, this can lead to developing unhealthy relationships full of guardedness and secrecy. You may refuse vulnerability or authenticity in your day to day life because you fear possible negative consequences.

We make ourselves smaller by holding our hands into clench fists. We rise higher when we let go and walk forward into the life that was meant for us.

How to Stop Holding a Grudge

Letting a grudge go can be a long, difficult process, but it’s one that will ultimately be worth it. Try engaging in some of the following techniques to move past the grudge and into forgiveness.

1. Don’t Play the Victim

To overcome a grudge, you must leave a victim mentality behind and also allow yourself to feel the pain, knowing also that a grudge prolongs the healing process[3]. Establish boundaries and visualize releasing the grudge to start to free yourself.

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Instead of playing the victim, see yourself as the hero of your own story, willing to let the grudge go to create the best possible life for yourself.

2. Don’t Vilify the Other Person

Focus less on vilifying the person and more on their intent. Life is not always black and white. Your feelings were hurt, but that may not have been the person’s intention. If it was, remove them. However, if miscommunication was removed from the world, we’d have far less broken hearts and hurt feelings.

Try to communicate with the other person if possible to understand what happened on their end and why things went the way they did. You may need to step back and realize not everything everybody does is because of you. It could be a reflection of how they are doing or something they are struggling with in their own life. Try to give them the benefit of the doubt before making them into the villain of your story.

3. Remove Emotions to See the Truth

When someone is struggling, they don’t always know how to put it into words and speak kindness. Sometimes, you have to be the bigger person and remove your emotions from the situation and help them. Sometimes, you have to be the one to say “I’m sorry” first because you have the emotional capacity for self-reflection, even if they don’t. Give them the chance to also own up, and your relationship with them may be strengthened. Talk using “I” statements, e.g. “I feel this because this happened,” not “You did this to me.” This will help the other person become accountable without feeling attacked.

This is how we renew relationships. We may move forward again because we know that life is short. We have flaws, too. We must not discount those for the sake of proving someone else right.

4. Act With Kindness

You can always say, “Talk to me. What’s really going on? You tell me you’re fine, but how are you really?” Everyone appreciates this. It also helps them to let their guard down. Maybe their actions aren’t about you. Or maybe they are. But if you say this to them, you won’t have any regrets. You will do the right thing no matter what and show them your maturity, that you refuse to be reactive just because they know how to get under your skin. You respond instead.

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You may even get help for them.

5. If It’s Time, Let the Relationship Go

It’s not about whether you believe people can change or not. It’s giving the opportunity for them to show you that they are more than the sum of their mistakes. So are you. Allowing for such humanity is both healing and humbling. Even if they were at fault, it doesn’t mean you need to only see them for their worst moments.

If someone did something truly hurtful and with the intent to hurt, then it’s okay to let them go. A life of joy comes from positive connections with others. If this particular connection is no longer serving as a source of good energy, feel free to leave it to the past and move on to finding better relationships. Once you let go of the grudge you had with the other, you’ll find you have more energy to devote to new connections.

6. See Forgiveness as a Strength

If there’s an opportunity to give someone the benefit of the doubt, take it, because you would want them to give you such a benefit. It doesn’t mean you’re weak to let the grudge go. It’s the opposite. It takes strength to start over, to forgive, to let kindness win. It takes strength to put the ego aside for empathy. We don’t know what road someone has traveled to get where they are. All we can do is walk beside them in the time we have given to us. We can even help change their course for the better.

Final Thoughts

If you can do nothing else, be kind without need of anything returned. Even if it means saying goodbye, let the grudge go with kindness towards both yourself and the other person.

Once you are able to forgive and let go of the grudge, you can start to live a better, freer life. You’ll find that you suffer less, feel less angry, and feel more empowered as the hero of your story.

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You never know how someone may later serve you in life if you don’t give them a chance now. Holding grudges shortens our lives, hurts our mental health and ruins our relationships. Let a grudge go and know that you will have a happier life if you do so.

More Tips on Forgiveness

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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Sarah Browne

Sarah is a speaker, writer and activist

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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)

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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