“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”
Fear is a normal human reaction that helps to protect us. It alerts and prepares us to deal with approaching danger. When we sense danger the body physically responds by increasing our heart beat, increasing our blood pressure and we also experience rapid breathing. When we are in real danger the body also physically prepares us to do one of two things – To Fight danger or Flee from danger. The body will stay in this state until the brain signals that there is no more danger.
Fear is a good thing to feel.
It sets us up for the adventure and it also prepares us to be cautious. The problem isn’t the fear, the problem is us and our reaction to the feeling of fear. When we are afraid to step out of our comfort zone, to follow our dreams, to confront bullies or to stand in our power, we don’t fight the fear, instead ,we flee or we hide. We don’t use it to excite us, stimulate us, or to move us forward in life. We let fear control our lives and paralyse us. When we are reacting to fear in this way we are choosing to make decisions that are not serving us well. As John Lennon said in his quote, if we are controlled by fear we pull back from life – mediocrity and complacency become acceptable in our lives. The key to overcoming our fears is to learn to love ourselves more – even with our imperfections.
“You can conquer almost any fear if you will only make up your mind to do so. For remember, fear doesn’t exist anywhere except in the mind.”
– Dale Carnegie
I am proud to say that I am pretty close to being Fearless when it comes to me following my dream, stepping out of my comfort zone and dealing with life’s challenges . For many years I had been too fearful to step out, to be courageous and follow my dream. I had made attempts, some were successful and some were not. In my career particularly I could never get to a place in any of my jobs where I was happy. I would take on roles because I felt like I had to, or the money was good, or the job was easy, and as a result I drifted through my career doing the roles I could do rather than doing what I wanted to do.Advertising
The turning point for me was last year when I had to face my third redundancy in 18 months. It was then that I decided that I didn’t want to be afraid anymore. I chose to face my fears and then I worked out how I was going to manage them. Today as I write this I can honestly say that my big fears no longer mean anything to me – I do however have a few minor ones lurking around. You never really stop being fearful, you just learn how to proactively manage your fears so that they enhance, energise and motivate you to action.
The 6 Steps to Mastering Your Fear
“Fear is a habit, so is self pity, defeat, anxiety, despair, hopelessness and resignation. You can eliminate all of these negative habits with two simple resolves: I can and I will.”
– Napoleon Hill
To master my fears I used the advice of 6 Fearless people who knew what they were talking about. Hopefully these 6 tips will help you to master you fears, so that you can live the life you desire.
Before you start reading through these 6 tips please note that Acknowledging your fears is the easy part – mastering your fears is hard work and it is a life long journey.
1. Get comfortable with Fear and invite it into your life.
Do things that frighten you. Take action and face your fears – the more you do this the more confident and stronger you become.
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by each experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt
2. Learn that Fear is only in our minds.
Fear is an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real. We can control our fears – they don’t control us. When you start to feel afraid, acknowledge the fear, feel it and then ask yourself “what is the worst thing that could happen to me if I did it?” Is the worst that could happen as bad as what you imagine it will be? It is ok to feel afraid and scared – it is not ok to let the fear control our minds.
“We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.”
– Lucius Annaeus Seneca
3. Get to know your 3 Big Fears.
There are 3 Big Fears which are the source of all your fears. Write your 3 Big Fears down and then put a plan in place on how you will deal with them one by one until you feel you are in control. You need to know what you are dealing with so that you can take one step at a time.Be realistic about confronting your fears. Its a life long journey so you don’t have to rush it. You just have to keep moving forward in your life.
“Each of us must confront our own fears, must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventure or to be limited by the fear of it.”
– Judy Blume
4. Focus on the Positives’ in Your Life.
Get yourself a journal and every day for 1 month write down:
- 1 positive thing that happened to you today
- 1 thing you are grateful for in your life today
- 1 good deed that you did today where you helped someone.
At the end of the month read your journal and then write down the top 3 things that month that you feel positive about, the top 3 things that you are grateful for and the top 3 deeds that you have done where you have helped someone. If you can complete that exercise I guarantee you will start to feel more positive and you will also see a more positive picture of your future. Not one bit of fear insight.
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style.”
– Maya Angelou
5. Be prepared for hard times and for failure.
It’s a life long journey managing your fears. Learn from other fearless people about how you can be more resilient and where you can find your courage. Resilience and courage will give you the strength and determination to master your fears.
“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?”
– Vincent Van Gough
6. Plan to Be Great.
Having a plan of action will mean that you won’t fall into the trap of giving too much time, energy or attention to fear. Be accountable and start to work toward getting results. In your Plan to be Great you need to be real about yourself and about what action steps you will need to take toward achieving your dreams. You will need to calculate, minimise and manage the level of risk – this is essential to the success of your plan. The last and the most important thing to be noted in your plan is that you are accountable for celebrating your victories. The past and the present victories need to be recorded in a journal, shared and celebrated. Please don’t forget to Celebrate because if you do forget you will find your fears will start to appear more regularly in your daily thoughts.
Become comfortable with your fears, embrace your fears and start learning how to be a master at managing your fears. Once you manage your fears then you will accomplish feats in your life that you would have thought impossible. You will find that you will be living your greatest and happiest moments when you push through the barriers of fear. Why would you not want to Master Your Fears if you know how great the rewards are?
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond imagination. It is our light more than our darkness which scares us. We ask ourselves – who am I to be brilliant, beautiful, talented, and fabulous. But honestly, who are you to not be so?”
– Marianne Williamson
Featured photo credit: imgix via unsplash.imgix.net
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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