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Last Updated on November 26, 2020

What Happened to Me When I Let Go of My Fear of Being Alone

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What Happened to Me When I Let Go of My Fear of Being Alone

Having a fear of being alone isn’t fun. What will you do when you have to make decisions all by yourself? How will you occupy yourself without somebody to talk to? These questions and concerns run though your head while your heart pounds. The thought of going to a movie without a friend is enough to make some people tremble. I used to be one of them. Now I know it isn’t so bad. When I let go of my fear of being alone, these four things happened.

1. I learned interesting things about myself

“Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.” –J.K. Rowling

This might sound crazy, but you don’t have as much free will as you think you do. Almost half of your decisions are directly influenced by subconscious programing—stuff you don’t even realize you’re doing.

According to Duke University, 40% of your daily actions are not based on logic or reason. Instead, they are habits that you perform without thought-process. Knowing that, how do you propose to understand yourself if you never take the time to pause and reflect?

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Most people stagger through life like mindless automatons, because they never stop to consider what causes their behavior. As a result, they can’t change their behavior for the better. Practicing meditation and keeping a private journal helped me dig deep enough to locate the roots that were responsible for my habits. I learned how to be more compassionate with myself, cope with self-defeating beliefs, and leverage my personal strengths for more success.

2. I became more confident in my personality

“If you make friends with yourself you will never be alone.” —Maxwell Maltz

Don’t you think weekends might be more enjoyable if you weren’t 100% dependent on other people? It’s amazing how so many folks feel like they can’t do something fun unless a friend tags along.

I remember when I used to feel that way in college. Ironically, due of my fear of being alone, I spent a lot of Saturday nights locked in my dorm room feeling sad, because I really wanted to go see a movie or a play or a concert, but no one else was available to go. I didn’t want to go out all by myself, because I thought I would look like a loser.

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Eventually, I realized my dependence on other people was completely unhealthy, so I decided it was time to get over it. I began my healing process by going to a coffee shop on my own. I took a book, which was a crutch (I was convinced people would stare at me, so it was nice to have a place to avert my gaze). But it helped me ease into it. It took me a while to get comfortable enough to interact with strangers, but now I can, and I became more confident in the process.

3. I realized conformity is nothing to be proud of

“Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.” —John F. Kennedy

Have you ever thought you were in a room by yourself, and decided to burst out in song or do a silly dance? Then you realized you actually weren’t alone (OMG someone saw the whole thing!), and you felt so embarrassed that you wished you could disappear?

If so, then you should know how tempting it is to conform due to a fear of judgment. People cannot be trusted to share their true selves when they are being watched. You want people to like you and you sure as hell don’t want to be criticized, so you’ll subconsciously censor yourself in a misguided effort to fit in.

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Apply this thinking to the Internet. If your public behavior is influenced by the presence of others, don’t you think your online behavior might be influenced by the prospect of an All Seeing Eye monitoring your email and social media activity? You better believe it is. Try to catch yourself in the act of self-censorship if you don’t believe me. This is why I roll my eyes when people say online privacy doesn’t matter. Be yourself. If a person can’t accept you, they don’t deserve you.

4. I changed into a happier, more productive person

“I have to be alone very often. I’d be quite happy if I spent from Saturday night until Monday morning alone in my apartment. That’s how I refuel.” —Audrey Hepburn

You know what’s funny? I’m an introvert, but I didn’t even know it until I was over 20 years old. My past desire to conform made me think I was “supposed to” hang out with other people after school or work, but spending time alone taught me that I didn’t really enjoy that at all.

Don’t misread me. I believe friendship is very important. We all need at least one like-minded friend who is worthy of our trust. It’s hard to deal with life’s down moments without a person to talk to. But that doesn’t mean you need to hang out with your friends at a bar or restaurant every single evening. That sounds exhausting (not to mention expensive)!

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Being alone rejuvenates me in a way that is hard to explain. I call the apartment I live in my “fortress of solitude.” I have grown to love living alone so much that I’m not sure I would trade it for anything. I can wake up, turn on some classical music, work without interruption, and get so lost in writing that I lose track of time. I can grab a good book, snuggle up with my dog, and read in silence. It’s nice to have company sometimes, but I am a lot happier when that is the exception, not the norm.

Being alone is nothing to fear.

Remember: this is all coming from a guy who used to have a fear of being alone. Give it a chance if you doubt me. It might change your life. If you have any friends who might share that fear, go ahead and send them here for some inspiration!

Featured photo credit: Girl Looking at Landscape Nature/Viktor Hanacek via picjumbo.com

More by this author

Daniel Wallen

Daniel is a writer who focuses on blogging about happiness and motivation at 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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