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5 Life Lessons You Never Knew You Should Unlearn

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5 Life Lessons You Never Knew You Should Unlearn

You get a lot of advice while growing up, and while you should take some of it to heart, most of these so-called “life lessons” can be thrown out the window. In this article, I’ll look at the ones that are particularly heinous in terms of leading you down the wrong path. Without further ado…

1. “You should care about what others think!”

No, you really shouldn’t. All of the success I’ve had in life has come as a result of not caring what some random person thinks of what I say or do. I would have never been able to tell off the housing office cited above if I cared what they thought about me. They probably hold me in disdain now, but so what? I proved them wrong.

Having no filter will cause you to acquire a handful of enemies, perhaps, but you’ll be a much happier person overall. At least this way, you won’t be second guessing yourself everyday asking questions like “aw, what if I had sent that message” or “I really wish I spoke out about that topic discussed in class today” or “too bad I never applied to that job because I was afraid of what the interviewer would think of me.”

2. “Don’t let others down.”

This is a noble life lesson, and one I follow far too religiously, so I’m going to try and save you some trouble. Trying to please everyone is not worth it. Mainly because, most of the time, they won’t reciprocate, EVER! I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me. I would befriend someone and get way too crazy about serving their every whim, only to get absolutely nothing in return.

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It’s ok to let people down. It happens. It’s better to tell somebody you can’t do something for them than to do it and feel unappreciated. There are exceptions of course; if it’s your best friend or family member, it behooves you (in most cases) to help them out since they’ll truly appreciate it. Other people though? Chances are they’ll forget what you did for them, and you’ll hate them for that. The solution? Don’t get involved in the first place. You can thank me later for reducing your stress level.

3. “Always prepare for the worst.”

And hope for the best, right? Wrong. Always preparing for the worst will lead to bouts of anxiety and, in severe cases, paralyze you from getting anything meaningful done. There’s something to be said of having your life in order, but there’s no reason to prepare for the worst possible outcome of every situation you’re in if you’re living a typical American lifestyle.

While bad things might happen, assuming that they will only makes you fear the future and prevents you from taking risks of any kind, even when a rational mind would see that there are many benefits to be reaped from such leaps of faith. I’ve fallen victim to this mindset a lot, and all it does is lead to acne breakouts, forehead wrinkles, and heart palpitations. With almost every job I’ve had, I’ve dreaded it up until the day it started, after which I’ve loved it. Imagine if you could get rid of that unnecessary “everything is going to go wrong” fear, and live in a state of constant peace of mind. Sound nice, huh?

4. “Try to be happy, even when you’re sad.”

Sorry folks, but this isn’t A Brave New World. There’s no soma-esque panacea out there to shield you from reality. We can’t stay happy all of the time, indeed, doing so only leads to disappointment when you lapse into normal phases of depression or sadness. You need to let your body do what it wants to do; go with the flow, in other words. If you’re sad and you can’t shake it, accept it for what it is. Allowing yourself to be in that state makes it much easier to recover from than when you’re beating yourself up for not being happy enough. When I’ve been sad in the past, often I would think about why I was sad, rather than accepting it, which only made it worse since it felt like I was part of the problem. Once you realize that this is something natural that afflicts all humans, you’ll get over it quicker and be better prepared for when it happens again.

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5. “Always be kind to others.”

Alright, so I’m not saying you should go out, flip over every table you see, and pop little kid’s balloons. What I am saying is that the word “always” is misused in this oft-repeated life lesson. Absolutes are usually inaccurate, so this comes as no surprise.

Being nice will only get you so far. Based on my life experience, I can tell you two things with certainty. One, nice guys finish last (the majority of the time); it’s a miracle I have a girlfriend with how placid I am. Also, being sweet and gentle doesn’t solve a multitude of tricky situations.

Take, for instance, dealing with something as infuriating as a university’s housing office (or your land lord, for a decent analogue). I recently had to deal with my Alma Mater’s housing office because they charged me with a ridiculous fee. The whole reason this turned into an issue in the first place was because I was too nice. After I graduated, I let housing know with a kind e-mail that there was a mistake on their end, and that because of it, I’d likely be unnecessarily charged. I also told them that they should take preemptive action to ensure that this didn’t happen (in that message I also cited the requisite evidence).

I assumed they took my measured words to heart, until months later I checked my account and saw I was charged with a fee.

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So, I got in touch with the housing office again, and told them it was ridiculous how they could do this to someone they never had any issues with previously.

Of course, they responded using passive aggressive phrases like “well, sir, you should have read the find print” or “we expect students to check their e-mail in order to avoid fees like these.” I, in turn, blasted them again, letting them know I had checked my e-mail religiously (I’m very OCD), and provided them with multiple forms of evidence that debunked their whole “fine print” theory.

Needless to say, I made a real effort to put them in their place. They refuse to retract the fee they erroneously charged me, but my anger did attract their attention, and, at the very least, by dismantling their argument. I’ve saved future college students a lot of trouble, since hopefully now they’ll change how their laughable system works.

What’s the moral of this story? Anger won’t always get you where you need to be, but neither will kindness. It’s a healthy mix of the two that keeps the world spinning.

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There you have it. Some life lessons should be taken to heart, but others will only lead you astray. It’s up to you to separate the good from the bad!

Featured photo credit: Breaking Bad Sweeps 2014 Emmys/ BagoGames via flickr.com

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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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