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8 Life Projects To Help You Overcome Low Self-Esteem

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8 Life Projects To Help You Overcome Low Self-Esteem

We all fall into that state of low self-esteem after all we have been doing, we find ourselves in a sea of failures. Often times, it’s not a pile of losses but a single malfunction. A relationship that did not work out? A job you did not get? An exam you did not ace? A career dead-end? Always tell yourself this shall pass!

But when you get into a series of little failures and are not able to get up and bounce back in the right way, you lose control and start to develop a habit of dragging yourself out of pretension. There is still hope. There is a way out of the self-esteem abyss (aka low self-esteem).

Whenever people ask me questions about self-esteem, a number of times I sense people know what to do but they do not know how to do it. Nowadays we are bombarded with a lot of information on self-improvement and it’s all the same. Let me break those ideas into practical personal projects you can easily do so you can immediately get started.

1. Make a list of your achievements

Do not focus on the negatives. All this time, you have achieved things in your life. Ask yourself, what are these? Having been able to make it through a roller coaster relationship? Finishing a course in spite of the time challenge? Working for a top company in your industry when no one from your college has been admitted except you? Having managed to raise a family or run a household who would not have achieved anything without your support or contribution?

There are a lot of other things you can think of. Listing them down is not silly. They are important. They make you up. They make you important. They make you beautiful.

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2. Create a dream board

Some of the things you have listed in your achievements may be what I call “accidental achievements” because they were never planned. Just like sending you to school was never your choice but it was what everybody was doing. It just went its way on its own without you realizing it. But you cannot leave yourself to luck all the time.

Take control of your life and make things happen for yourself and for your loved ones. You know you should have a dream, a goal or a priority. Now, let’s put that in black and white or should I say, in colors by creating a dream board!

Get yourself a clean cardboard or a frame which you can hang somewhere and put images of what and who you want to be in the next five years and in the next 10 years. Include an image of a person you want to be – maybe physically, emotionally or in whatever aspect of your life. Put this board somewhere visible so you will see this everyday of your life and stop thinking of the setbacks. Start focusing on your dreams and goals.

3. Start making choices of who you want to be not what others want you to be

Related to the dream board, include this process as a personal reflection about the kind of person you are. Ask yourself: Am I acting as myself or am I trying to project a different person? You can be that inspiring person who always catches everyone’s attention. Or the achiever who went to Harvard and is now a successful corporate leader. Or that articulate guy who can speak confidently on stage.

There is a pressure for any one of us to follow a certain figure in our environment. If this is strong, you have to fight the current and be yourself. Fighting the tide means learning to express yourself with your own style, leading your team in the effective way you know or choosing a different path you feel you will fit in.

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4. Develop the habit of self-affirmation

A big chunk of who and what we are comes from how we were raised by our parents or family. Whatever words, images and action we saw when we were growing up, we swallowed that up into our system. It is up to us – up to now – how we will take them.

In front of us is the future and if we want to take control of our lives, we have to take the good things we learned and unlearn those that are not helping. In the mean time, we can still change that by using personal affirmations to motivate us.

Self-affirmations are positive statements that describe a desired situation, repeated many times to influence the sub-conscious to take positive action. By doing so, we ingrain in our systems a different attitude to help us keep going in spite of difficulties. In Expert Enough, here’s one example: I am capable of achieving my goal!

5. Project self-confidence

If you can’t make it, fake it. This adage sounds silly but it is seriously true. Not that you have to fake it and pretend for the sake of itself. Self-confidence is like the chicken and egg thing. You can’t have self-confidence if you don’t try it. But where are you going to get confidence if you don’t have it? That’s where self-intervention comes.

You can copy confidence from your favorite drama series characters, movies or real-world bosses and success models. I like to look up to those team leaders in law and crime dramas. They tell me how to project assertiveness and confidence. Key things to remember: Practice what you have to say (until it becomes easy for you to be more spontaneous). Watch your body language and posture. Reduce tension inside by doing breathing exercises.

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6. Create your environment of trust and support

It’s easier to project self-confidence if you have family and friends very supportive to you. They will be your first line of offense when making that confident move. When you get to the actual battlefield where you need to show off your confidence, make new friends and contacts. Start conversations to ease out the tension in the room. Get to know people in the places where you find your self-esteem challenged.

When you start establishing rapport, barriers fall down. Then your trust joins the environment and there you will find a bunch of people throwing their support at you.

7. Increase your social exposure

Practice, practice, practice. There is no other way the best artists and leaders succeed other than practice. So goes for self-esteem and confidence. Set the tone for yourself and get used to it. Not to say you do not try even if you are already there in the real world. But chances are you will end up with this cycle of what-ifs asking yourself just because you are afraid to try.

Mingle in clubs and organizations to get you used to talking to people, reach out to those in need, socialize in parties, get to know people, make personal and business conversations, etc. You can join a Toastmasters in your area if you want to take your public speaking and leadership skills to the next level. You can join a local sports club just to mix and balance physical health with “social” health. You can join a business club or organization to help you meet more business contacts and in the process you sharpen your skills in talking biz.

8. Reach out to people who are in need and pay it forward

Now you ask, “Is this important in improving self-confidence?” Often times, people with low self-esteem seem to find it easier to talk to those who are underprivileged or those in need. This is because it is when they are able to express themselves with more ease and have less fear about having to meet high expectations from achievers.

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But more importantly, reaching out to others makes you stop thinking about yourself and instead, think of what you can do to help others, find a meaningful purpose or contribution and lead you to be more inspired to improve self for others. In relation to #7, expose yourself to people-oriented activities such as joining clubs or organizations where you not only sharpen specific skills or get used to talking but also being able to offer your own skills to service.

Time to make a step forward

Which of the tips on the list above is what you are most comfortable with? Take action! Pick one tip per week and see how you can develop the habit of pushing yourself to improve your self-confidence and self-esteem.

Nowadays, the best way to make a call to action effective is to get those around you to feel the real deal and see how it will affect them. My challenge for you is to pick up three to four projects mentioned above and commit to doing it. Send me an email about your commitment and be accountable for it. Be one of those brave souls who took responsibility.

Featured photo credit: William Warby 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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