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10 Ways We Hold Ourselves Back From Getting What We Want

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10 Ways We Hold Ourselves Back From Getting What We Want

At one moment or another, most of us have found ourselves questioning where we are in our lives. Whether it’s our careers or our personal relationships, we wonder why we’re not where we dreamed we’d be. This sort of questioning is fundamental and crucial in directing us towards attaining what we want. Often, the answer to such a question lies in our own doing. Even though it may seem a matter of circumstance, we are to blame for failing to achieve what we desire. It is we who hold ourselves back. It is we who prevent ourselves from achieving our own fulfillment. Below are just some of the ways in which we do things that contradict what we really want.

1. We want that promotion, but we don’t shape our daily work routines around attaining it.

We won’t always go the extra mile when an opportunity presents itself. Usually, a fresh promotion or a new position equips us with a sense of momentum that drives us to work hard, day after day. However, eventually we may lose interest in what we do. Our efforts stagnate if our role has remained rather monotonous. If we settle into a comfortable position at work and fail to do more than expected, there’s no justified promotion around that corner. We must stay motivated and challenge ourselves whenever possible.

2. We want to get out and see the world, but we’re increasingly tying ourselves down.

It’s a widely common phenomenon – the desire to travel the world and take it all in. To do so effectively; however, a lot of sacrifices must be made. The most important sacrifice is our free time. The older we grow, the more we find ourselves bound to our responsibilities. We have rent or mortgage to pay every month. We have a job that cannot be put on the back-burner for longer than two weeks. Relationships and/or children can dissuade us to get out there and really see the world. The longer we wait, the more there is to keep us grounded. We are also less likely to enjoy an opportunity to its fullest potential. Furthermore, we should not regard these obligations and responsibilities as excuses to prevent us from travelling, but rather as obstacles that can be managed (with effort) and rearranged.

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3. We want to pursue our childhood dreams, but get bogged down under notions of pragmatism and practicality.

If everyone lived according to the lifestyle that they envisioned in their earlier years, we would all be driving our Ferrari’s home from a typical day at work, likely at NASA or Nascar. Our dreams gradually dissolve the more we settle for stability. Why dish out all that money for a luxury sports car, when we can get a safe and practical sedan for a fraction of the price? Mentally, this continual practice of settling for what we can afford and what’s practical can prove detrimental. It’s a departure from what we really want. Our list of dreams turns into a list of dreams never achieved. There’s no reason we should refrain from shooting for the stars.

4. We want a great social life and many friends, but we just don’t make the effort.

Oftentimes we may find ourselves sitting around with a heavy sense of isolation. We might feel left out of various social circles. Unless we’re on the wrong end of a high school popularity contest, the blame rests on us. It’s our responsibility to make an effort – to go out when invited, to not cancel plans, and to initiate conversations. Popularity and a great social circle requires sacrifice and effort. We have to give, in order to get. Sometimes it’s impractical due to family or time-consuming career/studies, so we have to prioritize and accept the outcomes of what we choose to pursue.

5. We want to express ourselves and be courageous when it counts, but we’re afraid and we shy away.

Fear is a constant barrier to so many aspects of our lives – success, self-improvement, being true to oneself. We’re often presented with moments where we can raise our voice, give our opinions, or push back. Unfortunately though, we tend to shy away in fear of embarrassment or criticism. This can ultimately result in an ever-lasting memory in which we regret the way we failed to act in a particular situation. At the end of the road, we would ideally like to look back and feel as though we stayed true to ourselves. We hope we will be satisfied with the way we handled situations. We must avoid letting fear hold us back and seize the moment whenever we can.

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6. We want to relax and be mellow, but we let stress carry us away.

Stress can take years off of our lives if we let it eat at us. Many times it’s inevitable, but sometimes it’s completely unnecessary. For instance, there’s no need for us to worry about trivial things. Why get anxious about something completely out of our control? We must limit stress to matters that are within our control. We should focus on what we can solve with our own effort. Eliminate anxiety that stems from matters that won’t improve if we worry about them. This requires a substantial amount of self-awareness and constant vigilance of our mentality, but it’s well worth the effort.

7. We want to be healthy, but we prefer convenience and pleasure.

It’s human nature to be a creature of habit, seeking the constant fulfillment of pleasure. Part of it is genetic, like a predisposition to addiction, for instance. Part of it can be laziness or time-constraint. Why spend an hour cooking a healthy meal, when we can order out? We work on our feet all day, so what’s the use in exercising after work? These types of excuses prove detrimental to our well-being. The things that are really good for us (proper diet/exercise) can only be achieved with effort. The results may not be immediate (maybe you’re cooking tastes terrible, at first) but the long term benefits must be persistently acknowledged.

8. We want happiness, but we don’t let ourselves be happy.

Happiness can be a phenomenally elusive thing. Whether we take things for granted, see the glass as always being half empty, or just fail to stop and smell the roses – happiness is all about perception. For some people it’s much easier to generate happiness than it is for others. Some people have the perfect life. but still find themselves fending off bouts of depression. Others find happiness in the most essential of life’s needs. Thankfully, there are many solutions out there, some of which may include making time for ourselves and pursuing our interests. We must try and achieve whatever goals we set for ourselves, or work towards something greater. The solutions are out there – they just need to be realized.

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9. We want the world, but we have so much that we take for granted. We seek fulfillment but never let ourselves experience it.

This is the most pervasive human characteristic, in my opinion. If we always want something more, we’ll never have enough. It’s something so common and so predominant in leaving us ultimately feeling unfulfilled. So many of us are aggressively pursuing more and more, whilst we fail to look at what we have. We fail to appreciate our accomplishments. We’re bored with our jobs. Even though these very jobs provide a stable income and put a roof over our head. We’re annoyed with familial obligation, even though our family is otherwise a bright spot in our lives, supporting us at every turn. We get mad at our friends – the very ones who provide us with so much happiness. We feel unfortunate, even if we’re living in a modern civilized society free of war and famine. We never have enough time to ourselves, even though we’re writing and reading this post right now. If we’re perpetually focused upon what we want, and not what we already have, we’ll never feel fulfilled.

10. We want to be the best that we can be, but we don’t make it a life philosophy to improve ourselves everyday.

We wonder why we’re not where we want to be. We want to be better, but we don’t put in the work. It need not even take as much work, as it takes a conscious effort to evaluate where we are and why we’re here or there. Without this conscious awareness, we let things spiral away. Time flies by and we auto-pilot our way to a destination far away from where we want to be. What are the main points to take away from all of this? There are several themes that emerge from point to point: self-awareness and effort, being the most crucial. We have to ensure that we’re strictly re-evaluating ourselves, not just when we find ourselves at a crossroad, but more frequently and more aggressively. We have to establish a structure that prompts self-evaluation every so often. This method  takes practice and effort, but is absolutely vital in giving us control over where we go and what we achieve. Furthermore, we have to make an effort in our social interactions, in attaining what we want, and in avoiding the tendency to settle for what is convenient. If you found yourself disagreeing with several of the points made in this post then consider yourself fortunate.

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” – C.G. Jung

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Featured photo credit: MorgueFile via mrg.bz

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Michael Woronko

Michael shares about tips on self-development and happiness on Lifehack.

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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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