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13 Thoughts That Are Butchering Your Happiness

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13 Thoughts That Are Butchering Your Happiness

Sometimes you might feel like you’re the only one who gets down on themselves. We all have those intrusive thoughts that are so negative they paralyze us. You aren’t alone. These kind of thoughts can make us feel powerless because they are slowly butchering our right to happiness. The good news is we gave those thoughts power ourselves. That means we can take back control and begin clearing our minds of the negative thought wasteland.

Here are some ways to fight 13 very common negative thoughts that hold us back :

1. “I’m not good enough.”

This is our inner-critic talking smack and bullying us. He’s always on duty, patrolling our minds. Around every corner, he’s there to tell us that we’ll never be good enough at anything we try to do. We’ve all been guilty of believing that we fall short on some sort of prerequisite to life. Our mind was designed to make judgments for survival purposes. The trick is to acknowledge when a negative judgment is taking place and redirect our thoughts. Instead of focusing on our weakness and shortcomings, we need to shift our perspective to trying to do our best. All humans start somewhere. No one will ever be perfect. It’s important to concentrate more on our strengths and forgive ourselves for ever believing we weren’t good enough – because we are just fine.

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2. “I wasn’t born with the talent to do that.”

You’re right… you weren’t. No one was born knowing how to do handstands, or draw comics, or launch a rocket into space. For most of us, it takes knowledge and skill. There are a few people who have certain activities that just come more naturally to them. However, most of us will have to spend a great deal of time and effort on skill mastery. While this thought might be correct, it’s still a limiting belief. If there is something we really want to do, we must work at it longer. We weren’t born knowing how to do anything—it all takes practice and patience.

3. “It’s too difficult.”

This is a very common thought that creeps up to protect us from stepping outside of our comfort zones. Anything that we are not used to doing is going to make us feel uneasy and frustrated. If we aren’t being challenged by something in life, we don’t grow. We don’t reach our goals. We get bored with life. Sometimes, we need difficult moments in life to overcome, so that we can appreciate the journey and become the hero of our story. Bragging rights are cool too.

4. “Its just not the right time.”

There is never going to be a so-called “right time”. The conditions will never be perfect for what we desire to do. This thought only delays our dreams and goals from happening. The right time to start is exactly when we feel the hesitation. We can begin by taking slow and steady steps to whatever it is we are trying to achieve. No one achieved anything at just the right time. Delaying what needs to be done is a detrimental luxury we have today that our ancestors didn’t have once upon a time. Think about that!

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5. “I’m too old now.”

If you’re over the age of 25, you’ve probably thought this before. How sad is that? We constantly see people much older than us working towards their dreams, but when it comes to us… we’re just too old. That’s nonsense! If you’re working towards something that brings you happiness, you’re never too old! When you’re doing something you love to do, you can do it until the day that you die. End of story!

6. “People don’t like me.”

This thought shows its ugly face when we personalize other people’s actions. We aren’t mind readers—we can’t possibly know for sure that someone’s body language really means they dislike us. People’s behavior has so much more to do with their own issues—not us. We can reclaim our power over this negative thought pattern of assumptions by getting comfortable with who we are and being true to ourselves. When we genuinely like who we are, we stop caring if someone truly doesn’t like us.

7. “I’m not smart enough.”

This false idea goes back to the “I’m not good enough” thought pattern. This is just another one of those false  judgments we have about ourselves. We are what we believe we are. If we firmly believe we aren’t smart, then we will live our lives doing only simple things to get by. Sometimes, we need to test ourselves and our abilities. We are all capable of great things—we just have to start believing it. We don’t have to be “smart enough” to start working towards our goal. The big secret is: we learn along the way. No one goes into a task operating at a genius level immediately.

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8. “I’m too busy.”

We ought to really be asking ourselves if we are really “too busy”, or if we really just don’t have the energy. Everyone is busy. Saying that we are too busy to do something often turns into a big excuse that we just accept as truth. Chances are good that we aren’t too busy. The truth is– we either don’t want to do something or we are low on energy. A way to overcome this excuse is to schedule a task that we think we don’t have time for (like exercise) into our daily routine. If it’s scheduled, there is time for it. We must learn to differentiate between being “too busy” and avoiding something we don’t want to do. It’s more socially acceptable to say, “I’m too busy”; than to say, “I don’t really want to come to your birthday party”. It’s just difficult to know where do we draw the line sometimes.

9. “It’s just my luck.”

When something goes wrong, we can catch ourselves thinking that we must deserve this. There must be some sort of dark cloud looming over our heads, casting down trivial accidents like stubbed toes, coffee spills, and parking tickets. As the day goes on, we continue to hold on to any problems we’ve gathered during the day and then add them onto new problems that crop up. It becomes a snowball effect of “just my luck”. Our whole day is ruined. We could have easily combated this by shrugging off the situation and saying, “Oh well”. Bad stuff happens sometimes. If we find ourselves ruminating on all of the negative things that happened during our day, it certainly steals our happiness. Reflecting on positive experiences instead will help us notice the good things in our day more than all of the crumby things. “Just my luck” can then go from being a negative thought process to a positive one.

10. “They’re better than I am.”

Says who? We tend to think this idea about ourselves when we compare our weaknesses to other people’s strengths. Our self-worth ought not to come from comparing ourselves to our neighbor. Remember that our neighbor has flaws in areas that we are great at. This type of negative thinking will always bring us crumbling to the ground and steal away our treasured happiness. Everyone has different skills, talents, achievements, personalities, etc. The beauty of life is that we work with others to learn from them. We can turn jealousy and envy into curiosity and inspiration with a simple shift of perceptive.

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11. “I can’t do anything right.”

Failure and all-or-nothing thinking can make us feel like total losers. So we messed up on something in our lives?Big deal. It doesn’t mean that everything is ruined and we’ll never have a second shot. Falling down is a huge part of living. Everyone is going to have it happen to them—a lot. It’s staying down in the failure zone that is very detrimental to our self-esteem and is a cowardly decision. Getting back up and practicing resiliency will help mend our self-worth, regaining power back into our lives.

12. “I should be…”

If you know a little bit about psychoanalysis, you know that the superego is the “should” society places upon us. These are the rules and regulations of how society believes we must behave, and how we ought to live our lives. These demands are often very oppressive and sometimes irrational. When we are told that we “should” be a certain way, but we don’t want to be, we may feel overwhelming guilt over the conflict. We all deal with this constant battle between what our culture believes we should do and what we often want to do instead. Rigid, unbending demands are not at all fun for most people. When we find ourselves getting caught up in these “shoulds”, we should take a moment and decide if this is something we really want to do, or is this something we feel obligated to do in order to be accepted as a worthy individual?

13. “I’m all alone.”

It’s safe to say that we’ve all felt alone before (both physically and emotionally). This tends to happen when we’re going through a trial in our lives, or when we isolate from others. We might feel like no one knows what we are going through—that our feelings and tribulations are completely unique. However, we’d be wrong. Everyone has been through their fair share of tribulations. We can get over this negative belief by confiding in a compassionate friend who will support us when we feel like we are suffering and don’t know what to do. Sharing problems with a trusted ally gets us back to our happy place quicker than trying to do it all alone.

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Featured photo credit: Sad woman at the beach in sepia colors. via shutterstock.com

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Naomi Teeter

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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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