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Useful Advice for Your 14-Year-Old Self

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Useful Advice for Your 14-Year-Old Self

How many times have you mused about the wisdom you would have liked to be privy to when you were a teenager? If you had an opportunity to hop in a Tardis and scoot back to have a heart-to-heart chat with your 14-year-old self, what advice would you give (assuming that the younger you would listen)? It’s more than likely that we’d all have different bits of guidance that we’d share with our younger selves, but these are 14 tips that I’d personally try to encourage a teenage “me” to consider seriously.

1. You Are Amazing Exactly As You Are

Ignore what other people want you to be, expect you to be, or encourage you to be. There is only one YOU in the entire universe, and you’re perfect just as you are. Don’t try to act like someone else or look a certain way just to make others happy: just be the most authentic you that you can be. Period.

2. Start Doing Yoga Now

Trust me, in twenty years, your body will thank you a thousand times over for having established a solid yoga practice while you’re in your teens.

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3. Stay Present

Whether it’s through mindful meditation practice, keeping a stone in your pocket that you squeeze when your imagination starts to run wild, or through another technique that works best for you, learn to be in the present moment as much as possible. Let go of stupid crap as soon as it happens, and don’t dwell in “what if?” land: the past is ash and the future doesn’t exist. All we ever have is the current moment, so learn to inhabit it fully and you’ll never have to deal with anxiety about future events, or depression over what may have happened last week.

4. Stand Up for Yourself, But Also Stand Up for Others

It’s important to have a strong sense of self, but it’s just as important to be a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves. This could be as simple as defending someone in your school who’s being bullied, or you might want to get involved in activism to help animals, the homeless, or a different cause that you believe in. Your voice carries far more weight than you can imagine.

5. Learn As Much As You Can

Knowledge can never be taken from you, and the more you learn, the more it will help you in life. Learn languages, learn to cook, to code, to can vegetables. Turn off the TV and go do some free classes, or read articles and books, or even spend some time learning from your grandparents. You’ll treasure this knowledge in the future, trust me.

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6. Ignore Other People’s Opinions About You

The only person whose opinion matters is you. End of discussion. Other people can think whatever they like, but just because someone thinks something, doesn’t mean that it’s true, or valid, or should have any impact on how you live your life. There may be people who think that the Earth is flat, but just because they have an opinion about a subject doesn’t mean they’re right, or that you’re required to share said opinion.

7. Love Deeply, But Also Know When to Let Go

Love is a beautiful thing, but people change, and so do intimate relationships. There will be many crushes in your lifetime; many opportunities to have incredible connections with people, and each relationship has its life span. All things come to an end, and it’s far healthier to learn how to let go with grace than to cling to something that’s unhealthy just because you’re afraid of losing it.

8. Keep People In Your Life Who Enhance Your Life

Just as it’s important to recognize when it’s time to end a romantic relationship, it’s also vital to realize that friendships can have limited life spans as well. People can come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime, and they’ll grow close/drift apart like the tides. When relationships no longer work, end them with love and respect, and move on. Friendships can grow toxic, and it’s important to recognize warning signs of friendship deterioration, and act accordingly.

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9. Avoid Hazardous Situations

Don’t play red rover on train tracks at night, don’t have unprotected sex, don’t walk home alone after dark. Be sensible, realize that irresponsible actions can have dire consequences, and use common sense.

10. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

We all need help on occasion, and there’s always someone who’s willing to help you if you reach out to them. Never feel that you’re totally alone, especially when dealing with a difficult situation. It’s okay to be vulnerable, and it’s more than okay to talk to someone you trust when you’re going through hell.

11. Try Your Best

This mostly applies to school, but it can also refer to extracurricular activities. High school sucks, but it’s over in a few short years, and what you do with your time there can have major influence on the rest of your life. Try your best to do well in your classes, switch schools if the curriculum and atmosphere in your current school aren’t right for you, and take advantage of opportunities as they come along.

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12. Travel, If You Can

If you have the opportunity to do a foreign student exchange program, do it: it’ll widen your worldview exponentially.

13. Be Kind

Remember that acts of kindness are remembered and appreciated for a lifetime. How do you want to be remembered by your peers? Think of amazing, wonderful things that others have done for you, and how they’ve made you feel, and then pay the beauty forward.

14. Remember That Sharing DNA Doesn’t Always Equal “Family”

For some people, the family that they’ve been born into isn’t anywhere close to supportive. Some are neglectful, some are cruel and abusive, and some try to be functional but just can’t be. Some people find their “family” as they move through life, while others are fortunate enough to be born into a group that they mesh with well. Treasure those whom you consider family, and never put up with any measure of cruelty from someone just because you happen to be related to them by blood.

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More by this author

Catherine Winter

Catherine is a wordsmith covering lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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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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