“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.” — Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture
Have you ever been faced with a challenge that seems like a brick wall that is too ridiculously high to climb over? In these moments we can often feel angry, scared, frustrated, alone and think to ourselves: “Why me?” “Why now?” “I can’t do that!” “There’s no way I can get past this!”
I totally get it. We all get it, because we’ve all been there. The thing is that there are plenty of people making it over to the other side, some of whose walls are even higher than yours. It might take them a while, they might have to get creative on how they do it, but they still make it over eventually and if they can, so can you.Advertising
Instead of filling your mind with thoughts that keep your feet glued to the ground, try telling yourself these 10 sentences and start climbing that wall one little step at a time. The grass is greener on the other side.
1. “I am stronger and more capable than I think I am.”
You have deep wells of strength that you don’t even know exist. Sometimes our brains try to hide these from us in an attempt to keep us safe and within our comfort zone, but you don’t have to believe everything you think. I promise you that you are physically, mentally and emotionally stronger than you think you are.
2. “I have faced and conquered many challenges in my life and I can do it again.”
Take a moment to think about a time in your life that was really hard. A huge challenge that you didn’t think you could get through but you did. You fought, you pushed through the fear and in the end you achieved the seemingly unachievable. You did it then and you can absolutely do it now.Advertising
3. “I know there is a valuable lesson to be learned from this, even if I don’t understand what it is right now.”
We are not meant to live in our comfort zone. If we did we would never do anything, we would never experience full lives or grow or evolve. Life gives us challenges to test us and push us further than we ever thought possible. Often we look back on past experiences and see why they happened or what we learned from them. There is something to learn from this one too, even if we don’t know what it is right now.
4. “I can find happiness in any situation.”
Your life will never be perfect. There is no moment in the future where everything will line up and you will be blissfully happy. “I’ll be happy when (fill in the blank).” That moment doesn’t exist. Happy people choose to be happy now by finding something to be grateful for in any situation. It can be as simple as your morning coffee that tastes so delicious. Think through and focus on the positives more than you do the negatives.
5. “I have made mistakes before but I am not my mistakes. I believe in my ability to change and be better.”
We all make mistakes, it’s a part of life. It’s also the way we learn and grow. You have no control over the things that have happened in the past, but you do have control over the decisions you make in the future. Choose to believe in your ability to make better decisions. Sure you might make a few more mistakes along the way, and who cares? Learn from them, grow from them and move on.Advertising
6. “I am calm and collected as I make my way through this.”
We think more clearly and have better judgment when our minds are calm. Take a few minutes to yourself. Breathe in and out slowly. Let any thoughts that come in float away (I actually picture mine as little butterflies floating into the sky) and say to yourself, “I am calm and collected as I make my way through this.”
7. “I trust myself in making great decisions.”
Sometimes challenges can leave us feeling torn and completely confused. Trust that deep down you know what the best answer or approach is. Whatever you choose and whatever happens will eventually work out and be OK. So take the pressure off yourself and trust in your intuition.
8. “I have the ability to solve problems creatively.”
You have the ability to think outside the box and get creative when it comes to solving your own problems. Trust in yourself and this creative power. If you’re doing something that’s not working, try a different approach. The worst thing that could happen is that it stays the same as it is now.Advertising
9. “I am not expected to do this alone. I can ask for help if I want it.”
Whatever the challenge is, you are not expected to do it alone. Reach out to people who love and support you or seek the assistance of healers, counselors, whomever and whatever you think will help you get through this. It’s amazing how simple our problems can seem when we start working through them with others.
10. “I choose to see this challenge as an opportunity.”
It can be hard to be positive in times of struggle, but a huge challenge is only one because we let it be. Force yourself to look for the opportunities you are being given because of this challenge. It could be that it has brought you closer to your family and friends, or that you have learned a valuable lesson. See your challenges as opportunities to grow and be better.
You can do this. You are strong enough.Advertising
“Every great story on the planet happened when someone decided not to give up but kept going no matter what.” — Spryte Loriano
Featured photo credit: Life is hard/D. Garding via flickr.com
Last Updated on July 20, 2021
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:
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:
- How to Give a Presentation Like a Pro
- 10 Tips for More Effective PowerPoint Presentations
- Tricks to Deliver an Impressive Presentation Every Time
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