“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” –attributed to the Dalai Lama XIV
Bzzzzzzz. We all know this sound. We all know the nightmares and suffering it can produce during our much-needed and desired sleep. We all know when this creature is approaching. Its revealing buzz, simply unstoppable and greatly feared by us. This amazing little creature is even more amazing than we think. Its simplicity can teach us more than what we could ever have imagined…
“It is very hard to be brave,” said Piglet, sniffing slightly, “when you’re only a Very Small Animal.”
Rabbit, who had begun to write very busily, looked up and said: “It is because you are a very small animal that you will be Useful in the adventure before us.”
–Benjamin Hoff, The Te Of Piglet
1. Never Give Up
What a cliché. Never give up. It is one of those life tips that we find in almost every life guide. Far from being useless, it is surely a must. Mosquitoes get this idea pretty well. They can simply pass all night trying to get into our ear, or trying to suck all of our blood. If a pea-sized creature can give its maximum effort, why can’t we? We should at least be able to put up with a mosquito. We can always go farther, and when it comes to our dreams and passions, never giving up is the key to achieving these.Advertising
Never forget that refusing to give up is a way of seeing life. It is about learning that, even though life is supposed to flow, part of this beautiful experience is building the momentum and going for it! Just as Thomas A. Edison said, “Results! Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results. I know several thousand things that won’t work”.
2. Don’t Underestimate
We tend to underestimate things for their appearance. Size, for example, is one of those misleading qualities. We might think that because something or someone is small, it is powerless and inferior, like an ant or a mosquito. Did you know that an ant can hold more than 100 times its own weight? Or that mosquitoes are the deadliest animals on the planet?
Underestimating someone’s abilities because of their appearance is just insanely misleading and counterproductive. Like the example of the ant and the mosquito, we find countless instances of underestimation in life, such as underestimating the ability of your mom to help you with your love problems. If we want to flow in life, we should acknowledge people for their inner qualities and not for their exterior appearance or the first impression they give. Just as Toba Beta said: “Don’t belittle anyone who you don’t recognize. Don’t be fooled by anybody who underrates you”.
Ultimately, there will be times when we can´t beat the mosquitoes. Sometimes they are just too fast and somehow too powerful. It is a fight between the mosquito and our will for sleeping. It is then we have to learn to accept, which is one of the only ways to really win over mosquitoes, or to manage life’s casualties without painful attachments.Advertising
Accepting is one of Buddha´s life lessons, which certainly give us the key for flowing in life and managing life’s craziness. It is easier to flow with the water current than to resist it. Accepting is learning to let go, to be with the experience and don’t fight it. Sometimes in life we find something we call Reverse effort. As Alan Watts once wrote: “When you try to stay on the surface of the water, you sink; but when you try to sink you float. Whosoever would save his soul shall lose it”.
4. Don’t Fear Taking Risks
Mosquitoes take this too far, yet they teach us that taking a risk is worth it. For them, taking a risk is ultimately necessary, for it is one of their ways to get their food. Mosquitoes take the risk of fighting with an animal which is enormously much bigger than them. They don’t even try too hard to go all in, they just do it, and even try to get into our brains! How courageous is that?
Risk-taking is one of those much-feared things. It is totally natural, for breaking out of our comfort zone is hard and takes boldness. Yet risk-taking is certainly the best way to learn, experience, and do the undone. We humans are instinctively adventurous and committed, just like any other being. This is what has led us to thrive, evolve, and advance. Let’s go with our intuition and instinct and use our abilities to fulfill our dreams and passions. Just as Albert Einstein said: “A ship is always safe at the shore—but that is NOT what it is built for”.
We are part of this universe, this world, this reality. This is something we have forgotten. We are part of it, rather than, owners of it, which is what we usually think. Even though we might think that the former is not true, our actions say the contrary. The way we abuse the natural world, other beings, and even our own species, proves that we want to conquer rather than share and live as a whole.Advertising
Mosquitoes teach us that sharing is necessary for living, for space and resources are a need of all. Mosquitoes have equal right to live and be here. They been here longer than us, for about 170 million years already! If we learn to share not only space and resources, but love, kindness, help, food, time, and attention, our social life skills will get a boost.
Everyone loves to share with a gentle, sharing, and respectful person. And not only that, the well-being and satisfaction you feel from living interconnected with all beings and sharing with others is priceless and nameless. Just as Snoop Dogg said: “It ain’t no fun if the homies can’t have none”.
6. Be Humble
Yes, we are advanced; yes, we have a lot of money; yes, we have big houses, cars, buildings, and guns. Yes, we have complex minds, prodigy pianists, violinists… Yes, a mosquito drives us insane. Yes, we can´t control the weather. Yes, we are powerless in front of an angry volcano, a furious tornado, a violent tsunami.
We are not the most powerful, nor invincible, nor infinite. We are mortal just as any other being. We are in a continuous process of evolution and thriving. Life is beautiful. We are here to coexist rather than to oppress or repress. Mosquitoes teach us this simply and easily by demonstrating to us that in a room, in the forest, or anywhere, we are almost powerless in front of them, and if we have insect repellent, we are powerful for a couple of hours just to return to our normal, ordinary, human state.Advertising
Life is much more enjoyable when we live together and share together. There is no need to show superiority over others. If we ever have the idea that we are superior and invincible, certainly life will take the task of showing us the contrary. Just as Thomas Henry Huxley said: “Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses nature leads, or you shall learn nothing. I have only begun to learn content and peace of mind since I have resolved at all risks to do this. ”Good things come when we are open to live! Go out and live life! Listen to the mosquitoes and their wise bzzzzzzz!
Featured photo credit: Mosquitos resting on overblown flower via shutterstock.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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