S is disappointed. She just spent the past week putting together her boss's going away party. Nobody asked her to do it. She took it upon herself because she's a goddamn professional. As you can imagine, it was a lot of work. A few days before the party she had a revelation:
"Well I planned this thing. I even bought the gift. I guess that means I have to do the speech."
She didn't do the speech. Somebody else did the speech. Today, she says to me, "Dave, I dodged the ball."
After the party, having not given the speech, she felt terrible for letting fear stop her.
"WHY CAN'T I JUST STAND UP AND GIVE A DAMN SPEECH!!??" she pleads.
A fair question. The answer?
We start by asking ourselves a new question:
"HOW CAN I CREATE THE CONFIDENCE TO GIVE A GREAT SPEECH?"
Now that's a question we can work with.
First, S has to totally rethink her attitude about nervousness.
Growing up in the West, S has been conditioned to think that nervousness is a sign of weakness. "Don't be nervous" we say to the player before he takes the field. "You're not nervous are you?" we ask the singer before she hits the stage. Usually they lie and say "Me, nervous? Nah...I never get nervous." We are taught to downplay our nerves. Suppress them. Control them. But that doesn't work. We're humans, after all.
Let's do this differently, shall we?
Instead of thinking nervous = weak, let's think:
nervous = strong!
Oh yes. It's strength. Not weakness.
Think about it; why do we get nervous?
We get nervous because we care. We care about sending our boss away with the respect he deserves. We care about giving an inspiring speech. We care about singing a killer song. We care about winning the game. People who care are strong people.
But we still get nervous.
Accept, from this day forward, that when you get nervous it means you care. The next time you feel an attack of nervousness coming on, don't let it freak you out, which is to say don't buy into the notion that there's something wrong with you. Instead, say to yourself, "Yes! I'm nice and nervous! I might feel like crap right now, but this is what life is all about."
Once we've accepted this new mindset, we gotta take care of those physical symptoms.
- Increased heart rate? Breathe. I'm talking some Yoga type, meditation type breathing. I've never done Yoga or meditation, but I can breathe slowly and consciously for five minutes. And chill out on the triple espressos too. Caffeine won't help.
- Upset stomach? Eat. It doesn't matter what you eat, just have something in your tummy.
- Sweaty? Have your deodorant close by. Have a handkerchief close by (don't wipe sweat with your sleeve, Casanova. We don't wanna see that). Dress intelligently. Get this one right. Seriously.
- Blushing? Sorry, can't help you. I have no idea what causes this. Here's my advice: when you feel your face turn hotter than Georgia asphalt, don't panic. Let it come. Let it go. People will notice you've turned red but when you confidently maintain your poise, you'll appear even more powerful. It makes you even more deliciously human.
At the end of our session, the courageous S asked, "So Dave, if I do all this, will I stop getting nervous?"
Nope. Never. IT NEVER GOES AWAY. But if you choose to embrace your nerves, and you practice by taking lots of risks for the rest of your life, you probably won't puke before every show.
So what's the payoff for tackling your nerves?
Overwhelming pride. Lifelong confidence. Real joy. Undeniable sexiness. Genuine influence.
You want some of that, right?
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