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I Wish I Knew These Sooner: 15 Mistakes 20-Somethings Make

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I Wish I Knew These Sooner: 15 Mistakes 20-Somethings Make

Twenty-somethings get a lot of condemnation on the internet and this list below isn’t meant to demoralize you. Rather, it’s an acknowledgment that life is hard, especially when you only have about 20 years of experience (most of which was spent on Pokemon cards and bike riding). Here are 15 common mistakes 20-somethings make — and how to avoid some of them.

1. Poor living arrangements

Wouldn’t it be awesome to live with my best buds, or my new, amazing girlfriend? Nope, probably not. Moving in with a partner too early, or with certain friends, could mean unpleasant surprises. There are courteous people, and there are those who blast Biggie Smalls at 6 a.m. Unfortunately, you may not know the difference until it’s 6 a.m. Know their flaws before you live with them. This way, you’ll at least be prepared to work around them.

2. Taking on too much

Today’s schedule reads: cleaning the house, work, volunteering, going on a date, visiting a friend, grocery shopping, and then the gym. Sounds great. In theory. Unfortunately, you’re confined to this human body that needs sleep and stuff. If you’re an introvert, this is an even more insane schedule. We may have the freedom to “do it all,” but that doesn’t mean we have to do it all right this second.

3. Lack of direction

College is a time for discovery and trying new things, right? I guess, but at what expense? College doesn’t have to be a time for wasting all of your (or your parents’) money. It doesn’t have to mean skipping classes, losing focus, and trying to please everyone with your “coolness.” While all of this may be a learning experience, it’s also a big time waster. Let’s face it, people who chase the “college experience” usually just end up peeing their pants.

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4. Dating catastrophes

I’m a firm believer in everyone not dating until they’re 40. Anything before that just gets in the way of your development. Alright, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but 20-somethings who drain all their energy in a bad relationship are wasting precious time. If you are settling in at college or a new career, a bad relationship is something that will just hold up your personal progress. Fights, sadness, confusion, jealousy, etc. All of it is an unnecessary distraction.

5. Debt

Loans are a bummer, so let’s just get them out of the way early on this list. Loans are not always a mistake. However, if you take out a loan only to realize later that it did not benefit you (and you’re now stuck with meaningless debt) — that was a 20-something move. In our defense, ever-expanding tuition costs and the complex uncertainties of the job market make investing in education a game of musical chairs. You don’t know if you’ll end up in a cozy salaried seat or standing out in the cold. So just keep in mind that your aspirations may change.

6. Heat-of-the-moment tattoos

“Wow, wouldn’t it be awesome to have a penguin riding a shark on my leg forever?” No, absolutely not. But when you’re a 20-something, an “absolutely not” can look like a “hell, yes.” I have plenty of friends with random, not-so-flattering tattoos that they got for free, at a convention, from a friend, while drunk, or all of those combined. Maybe you even got your girlfriend’s or boyfriend’s name tattooed, only to curse them out and break up a week later. It happens to the best of us. Just look up a tattoo removal specialist, stop with the self-induced shame, and move on, 20-somethings.

7. Caring what others think (a lot)

This is always a mistake, no matter what age you are. It seems like as we age, we’re a little more equipped to deflect other’s judgments and discouragements. But when we’re fresh out of our Sociology 101 class, we may not deal with unintentionally hurtful people well — people who are nursing their own wounds while judging us under false pretenses. This is not your problem, and it is not about you. You will never stop caring what others think until you truly believe that.

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8. Drinking too much

Some people will never have this problem. They are sure of themselves, responsible, and emotionally mature. For the rest of us 20-somethings, there will be those nights. For a fraction of us, a lot of them. Know this: drinking does not solve problems. It does not fix relationships. It does not make you happier, more fun, or more attractive. If you use alcohol to boost your self-esteem, you’re going to be disappointed eventually. You shouldn’t be drinking your courage; you should be earning it.

9. Marrying too quickly

Divorce has become quite common ever since we stopped condemning divorcées to hell a few decades ago. But that doesn’t mean you should collect divorces just because you can. Sure, you may be in love with someone while in your 20s, but that doesn’t necessitate marriage. If you have different values or can’t live comfortably with someone now, marriage will only intensify those problems.

10. Your youth: would you like fries with that?

I know it feels harmless to eat nothing but Arby’s cajun fries until you’re about 28, but there are plenty of reasons not to. For one, many illnesses nowadays are chronic and degenerative, meaning you could work up to a disease after several years of neglected health. It’s also a bad habit to develop early in life, meaning it will be tougher to break when you get old and have to.

11. Relocating for the wrong reasons

Twenty-somethings are all about relocating, and it works great for many. However, if your reasons for relocating are anywhere along the lines of bettering yourself, changing your relationships, “finding your passion,” or “making a clean start,” be careful. A lot of these things are entirely internal processes. You may regretfully realize upon arriving at your new “mecca,” that things (aka you) are exactly the same.

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12. Extensive planning

Remember that girl from high school who had her wedding day planned out right down to the last detail? Remember how nuts you thought she was? Right. So what makes you think that your extensive planning is any less nutty? It’s great to plan out your day tomorrow, or plan a general career trajectory if you know what you want. It’s just not good to get bogged down in details that probably won’t even matter when the time comes. Trust your future self. He or she is totally awesome, and knows more than you possibly could right now.

13. Going against your gut

Maybe you believe in intuition, conscience, instincts, etc. Regardless of what you call it, your guidance system shouldn’t be ignored. Your gut is on your side; it’s not trying to screw you over. Listening to my gut would’ve saved 22-year-old me hundreds of dollars in scam money — too bad I had told it to shut up that day.

14. Being selfish

Isn’t it funny how volunteer positions are often targeted at older, retired people or stay-at-home moms? What is it about being young that makes us think our time is too valuable to help others? Yes, it’s a time when we are not financially stable, but selfless endeavors don’t have to take up your whole week. Helping others always makes people happy. It’s in our bones. Just ask every successful person ever.

15. Beating yourself up

On the opposite end of the spectrum, it’s sometimes hard for 20-somethings to give themselves credit. Most of your time during this decade will probably be spent in a “working towards” mindset, instead of an “enjoying being” mindset. Try to counter that by taking note of how far you’ve come and what you’ve already achieved. (Not going to Arby’s today totally counts.)

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Conclusion

Don’t worry, this doesn’t cover them all. There are plenty more mistakes you can make as a 20-something! But in all seriousness, you can survive all these and more — and you’ll be wiser for it.

Featured photo credit: Nemo via pixabay.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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