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Last Updated on January 25, 2021

Take Back Your Personal Power (Part 2)

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Take Back Your Personal Power (Part 2)

In part one of this post we discussed the tendency some of us have to allow situations, circumstances, events and even other people to control our lives; in essence, giving away our power in an attempt to be accepted, valued, appreciated and loved. By trying to “fit in and not make waves” (as someone shared with me recently) it seems that some of us have lost our identity and sense of self. The good news is that we can take back control of our life and still be that kind, generous and thoughtful person – who also happens to be strong, confident, assertive, productive, successful and powerful. And no, we don’t need to compromise our beliefs, goals, character or core values to do so. In fact, taking back our power can be the most important step towards living a life of true purpose, alignment (with our core values), integrity and joy.

While the following strategies are very effective, they are not always comfortable or easy to implement, so it’s a good thing that you and I are all about doing what works – not what’s easy! Not every point will be relevant for every person, so see what resonates for you. Also be warned that I may be a little… er… blunt in places (surprising, I know), so if you’re feeling a bit presh you may wanna read from behind a cushion (like in a scary movie). Enjoy.

1. Stop looking for easy and start “doing” effective. Today.

All too often our desire to live a comfortable, painless, easy and safe existence (all things driven by fear) is the very thing that kills our potential, our productivity, our ability to develop and ultimately, our spirit. It is no coincidence that we (the society) have both (1) a widespread aversion to anything that makes us uncomfortable and (2) a high percentage of people who regularly feel frustrated, unfulfilled, lost and miserable.

Ironically, it is our aversion to working against resistance that stops us from growing, learning, evolving and adapting. Sometimes (in the moment) we believe it’s simply easier to just “fit in”, to compromise and to bite our tongue. While this is understandable on occasion, over the long term this kind of behaviour and thinking will set us up for unhealthy relationships, stagnation, disconnection, frustration, desperation and misery. In order to take back your power you will need to be courageous (that’s a choice by the way), you will need to be prepared to get uncomfortable (that’s where you learn, grow and adapt) and you will need to do things that may piss other people off – perhaps the ones who previously pulled your strings for their own gain.

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2. Face your fears.

You can never take back your power until you confront the things that scare you. By the way, being fearful does not represent weakness but rather humanity.

“Show me the person who fears nothing and I’ll show you an idiot.”

*There’s also an argument that the person who fears nothing might also be the person who has reached enlightenment… but that’s a discussion for another day.

If things only have the power and influence that we assign them (and they do), then fear is something we can control and use for our own personal development. For the most part fear is a completely personal thing. It’s not about the situation, circumstance or environment but rather US in it; how we react to, process, cope with and interpret the events in our world. That’s why we can see two people doing the exact same thing at the same time (a bungee jump for example); one is excited and having a great time, while the other is terrified and having the worst time ever. That’s because it ain’t about the jump; it’s about the jumper. Keeping in mind that each jumper creates his or her own reality. Of course there are healthy fears – not wanting to swim with a shark for example – but what we’re talking about here are those destructive and unhealthy fears that have been known to make people prisoners of their own mind. For a lifetime.

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3. When nice isn’t. (Nice)

Seek to be strong not nice. Too many nice people get chewed up and spat out because all they have is a bunch of “nice-ness” and zero personal power. Sometimes nice-ness is actually a euphemism for weakness and far too often our need to be seen as the “nice person” (oh, please) is what brings us undone. Endeavouring to keep everyone in your world happy is an exercise in futility, frustration and exhaustion. And stupidity. In short, it can’t be done. It’s not your job to “make” people happy; it’s your job to be you. And not the “you” that people want you to be, but rather, your authentic self. The one who has clarity, certainty, contentment and calm about who and what they are. And no, being you does not mean being selfish.

4. Stop being a victim.

The world isn’t fair. The majority don’t care about you or your issues. S**t happens. Bad things happen to good people. And lots of people are selfish and nasty. There — we’ve cleared that up. Now, stop seeking pity, attention and sympathy and get on with it. Stop having the same pointless discussions about the same issues, stop waiting to be “saved” and stop giving away your power. You don’t need universal approval, acceptance or endorsement, you need a different attitude.

5. Win respect through your actions.

Talk less, do more. What you do will tell the rest of us far more about who you are than any words that might come out of your mouth. Words are cheap and often meaningless. Most big talkers are just that. And nothing more.

6. Keep re-inventing yourself.

Being stagnant and inflexible in a dynamic world is a sure-fire way to become redundant, unnecessary and powerless. While your core values, beliefs and standards might remain constant, it is important that you continue to adapt, learn, grow and develop with your ever-changing world.

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7. Value yourself.

Stop treating others as though they are of greater worth than you. Nobody is more important than anyone else. And nobody is more important than you. Nobody. This is not about having a massive ego or being self-righteous; it’s about stopping all the self-sabotage. You know what I mean. It’s about not rationalising mediocrity and failure any more. It’s about changing your standards and your thinking. It’s about not letting your poor self-esteem get in the way of your potential and your possibilities. It’s about not letting your past become your future. In case you don’t know or you haven’t been told, I will tell you now; you are worthy, you are talented, you are good enough and you are powerful. More than you know. If you don’t believe those words then you don’t value yourself as you should.

*By the way, power and humility can go comfortably hand in hand.

8. Fiercely protect your brand.

Don’t associate with people, organisations, situations or products that will damage your reputation. In the professional world (where many of us spend a great deal of our lives) your brand is your power. The stronger your brand, the more power you have (in that world). Prospective employers, potential business associates and customers will all “buy what you’re selling” based largely (if not solely) on their perception of you; your product, your service, your ability, your skill, your integrity and your value to them.

Featured photo credit: Jackson David via unsplash.com

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More by this author

Craig Harper

Leading presenter, writer and educator in the areas of high-performance, self-management, personal transformation and more

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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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