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An Open Letter To the 5 Year Old Me

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An Open Letter To the 5 Year Old Me

What would you tell your 5-year-old self if you had the chance to write a letter to your past self? Here’s my letter.

Dear 5-year-old me,

You’re 5 and all you care about right now is football. You love it. You just discovered it and it’s like a drug. No. Wait. I don’t want talk about drugs. Football is… REALLY FUN. Yeah. That’s better.

Sometimes you think about becoming a professional footballer and you put a lot of pressure on yourself. Why do you play football? Because you love it. No other reason Let yourself just love it.

Remember that you are good enough

When you get a little older you let kids boss you around. There’s one kid in particular. He barks orders at you and you follow them. Most of the time you’re easy going. You don’t mind.

Is it ok of this kid to boss you around? Is it ok for you to let people boss you around? Are you telling yourself that you’re not worth as much as they are? If you ever tell yourself that, don’t believe it. It’s not true and it never will be. You’re worthy. You’re enough. Forever.

Sometimes what seems wrong at the time, will turn out to be the best that will ever happen to you

When you’re 9 Mum and Dad decide they want to move. When you’re 10, we do. You cry. You beg and plead. You hate that you’re moving away from your friends. You feel like mum and dad ruin your life.

This is one of the best decisions mum and dad ever make. I promise you. I won’t ruin the surprise by telling you the reasons why. When you get upset, read this letter. Trust mum and dad. Trust me. Trust yourself.

Going after what you really want will change you

When you’re 11 you win the Maynard Cup. Well, the team does. You probably don’t even know what that is right now. You will soon. Wanting to win it becomes a dream for you. It’s the first dream you ever have. You’re desperate to win. You have to win.

It consumes you. It’s all you can think about. You even do things you’ve never done before like imploring your teammates to NOT dive into tackles with a certain player. He’s brilliant so you NEED to be sure they know what they’re doing. You won’t risk the alternative. You won’t risk losing.

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When you start behaving differently, and for the better, you know you really want something. You hop on your dragon and fly around the Milky Way and pluck stars from their constellations. That’s how it feels to achieve a dream.

Write about what you love

You’ll never enjoy “creative writing.” Whatever that means. You just never know what to write about. You feel stuck. You’re nervous about your exams. You don’t fail at anything and you don’t want to fail at this. What would happen if you gave yourself permission to fail?

“Write about football.” That’s what mum and dad say. You can’t believe you’d never thought of it. It was so simple. They really mean “write about what you love.” Because of your essay in your exam you win the creative writing award. You’re shocked. You want to win the sports award. You don’t. The creative writing award is the award to win. Trust me. If you write, write what’s in your heart.

If you get lost, always try to find a way back to who you really are

When you’re in the classroom on your first day at secondary school you don’t want to talk to anyone. But secretly you want to talk to someone. You can’t, though. You won’t. A kid named Steven comes up to you and says “hello!” in his squeaky and obviously-not-broken voice. The sun rises from the horizon and bathes you in its warm glow. A friend.

From then on you always made an effort with the new kid. Always. You were the one that said hello. You were the one that made him feel welcome. You were the one who made him feel like he wasn’t all alone. I’m proud of us for that.

Steven helps you. He helps you get into trouble. The teachers tell you off for talking. You get detentions. You suffer academically. When you think of mum and dad, shame crawls over you.

Mr. Cross was your favourite teacher. And you were his favourite student (it’s ok, Sir, you can admit it). That’s why he notices you getting into trouble. That’s why he cares. He sees things in you that you don’t see in yourself. Not yet.

Do you know who you really are?

You and Steven queue up for class in the computer room. A computer room was actually a novelty back then. If only you could see the world now! As you walk in Mr. Cross pulls you aside. He towers over you like a dictator. But also like a father. He bends forwards. He looks you in the eye. He says: “I’m getting really sick of you.” He walks away.

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You’re stunned. You’re stunned that he talked to you like that. You’re stunned that he cares that much. And you’re stunned that you agree. You’re sick of yourself. You’d been letting Steven pull you towards the abyss. You’re pretending you don’t care about all the stuff you do care about. Respecting people. Getting A’s. Being you.

None of the stuff you did with Steven felt right. Trust your gut. You know who you are and you know who you’re not. Act on it.

Look up to your mother’s strength

Mum gets cancer. You cry when they tell you. It’s ok. Let it out. But they’re going to need you to be strong. I know you’re young but you can do it. You visit her in the hospital after her operation. She’s just lying there. There are so many wires. You feel sick. Again, it’s ok. She’s ok.

Chemotherapy is a bitch. Not that you and I know. But mum knows. It drains you. So how she came with us and dad to watch the Harlem Globetrotters I’ll never know. That’s one of my favourite memories ever and it never would’ve happened if our mum wasn’t our mum. She’s strong. Stubborn, even. That’s probably an advantage when it comes to dealing with cancer. There was no way she was going to let this beat her.

Deal with problems how mum deals with cancer.

Sometimes you won’t get what you want and that’s ok

You make the east of England basketball squad. Woo! Check you out. Even though you went to trials in a full kit and sweatbands. Nobody picks the kid who does that. You’re not really sure you deserve to be picked. Everyone else is tall or has muscles or a beard. You’re just a kid. That’s how you define yourself.

In the penultimate practice game, before those who went onto England trials were picked, you play brilliantly. You don’t miss a shot. You’re in the zone. You’re the Grand Master and the other players are pawns. You’re happy.

In the final practice game the coach tells you to focus on defense. Just defense. So you do. You do exactly that. Your man barely touches the ball. He doesn’t score. For a small white kid lacking in athleticism you do ok. The game ends. I can’t even remember who wins. The only thing left to happen is for the coach to name the players going to England trials.

The locker room is a prison of anxiety. Only 2 people don’t get picked. You’re one of them. You’re not good enough. How do you feel? Like a hot poker has been driven between your ribs? Like your gut has been sliced open?

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One of the player’s dads, who was friends with the coach, came to every single practice. The coach already knew some of the players. You weren’t tall. Or athletic.

Those are excuses. Not reasons. Sometimes you sweat and you hurt and you give everything but you still get brushed aside. You didn’t make the team because you weren’t good enough.

And that’s ok. You don’t deserve to have what you want just because you tried hard. I’m not saying that to depress you. I’m saying it because then you’ll do things you love and not worry about the results.

Even then you still won’t be chosen. But that’s not the point. You’ll choose yourself. (shout out to James Altucher.)

Don’t expect that others will treat you like you would treat them

You go to college to do a Sports Science BTEC rather than stay at school and do A Levels against the advice of everyone. No one listens to advice anyway and no one should. Going to college is what’s in your heart.

The older kids at college don’t seem to like you. They’re clique-y. You still want to be wanted at this point without ever thinking if you like who you want to be wanted by.

You’re the only first year to be picked for the first team. Even though you’re still small and can’t jump.

The first team train on a Tuesday night and every time you wake up in your bed on Tuesday morning you dread what’s to come. You play against some of the best players in the country but your spirit is wrestled to the ground and left to cower. You don’t understand why they don’t like you. You’re desperate to fit in and you’re unhappy you can’t. The worst thing is that you look up to them. As basketball players. They’re the best players you’ve played with. And they treat you like you treat yourself when you make even the smallest mistake.

You want one of them to take you under their wing. To ask you if you’re ok. To stand up for you. To care about you. How many times have you truly cared about yourself? You would have mad friends with the new guy because you know what it’s like to be on the outside. To have your heart screaming but have your brain shutting it up. You would’ve wanted to save them.

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Some people would do exactly the same as you because you’ve both known the same pain. How else could you love a stranger? The older kids don’t do what you would do. They don’t do the right thing because the right thing is your right thing. They did their right thing. And that’s ok.

I’m going to have to go all Good Will Hunting on you and say this: It’s not your fault. Forgive them.

Stop holding yourself back

On your first day of work you arrive early. An hour early. You sit in the car with a blank face and a wire crossed mind. What have you done? You’ve never had a proper job before. “What’s an office like? What are the people like? What will I even be doing? What will my boss be like? How much is lunch? How many times am I going to mess up?” Those are 6 of the 453,962 thoughts that go through your head in the car. How many of them are positive? How many of your thoughts are ever positive?

Later in the day you’re sitting at “your” desk and you get that all too familiar feeling. You need the toilet.

What on earth are you supposed to do? Do you have to ask? What will your boss say? What will your team say? Will they ask you where you’re going? Will everyone in the office simultaneously stand up and accuse you of slacking off? Will the CEO ride in on a white horse, put his joust to your neck and fire you?

Breathe. You’re not that important. You’re paralysed. You look around for help. Help with what? Justifying your decision? TO GO TO THE TOILET?! You don’t want to ask because you don’t want to look stupid. You don’t want to stand up and go because you don’t want to look stupid.

What would happen if you stopped overthinking? Eventually, SOMEhow, SOMEway… you go. You make a run for it. You do your thing. You walk back. You sit down. And SOMEhow, SOMEway… the world is still spinning. People are still doing their jobs. The CEO is nowhere to be seen.

Stop holding back. Stop stopping yourself. Stop wearing a mask. What would happen if you were the Real You?

In the end you have to learn your lessons nevertheless

I don’t even know what this letter is trying to say. Maybe it’s just therapy for the 24 year old me. Maybe I’m trying to say all the clichés you’ll learn: You’re ok. You’re enough. Be kind to yourself. You learn the most when you’re wading through shit. If you let yourself. Be not a victim but a Man. The “you” that you pretend to be is no match for the Real You.

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Don’t believe any of this. Seriously. Find out for yourself. Live for yourself. Stay curious. Stay playful. We learn through play and you probably play more because you’re 5 and I’m 24.

Love, your future-you

Featured photo credit: PhotoPin via photopin.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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