How do I get out of my head and build that self-confidence and belief in myself? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
Everyone who experiences fear of public speaking should know they're far from alone. In fact, 58% of people have this fear, with one in ten describing themselves as "very afraid," Chapman University's American Fears Survey.
Some people's glossophobia (the technical term) can even lead to an "," a state known as fight, flight or freeze. In this state they may experience their hearts pounding, palms sweating or feeling nauseous.
Even after a career in front of audiences as a TV news anchor, speaker and trainer, I still sometimes have to fight off my own fear of public speaking. I also work with CEOs and other executives who experience this fear all the time.
I've developed a system to overcome this. It's all about replacing negative thoughts and feelings of self-doubt with positive thoughts and feelings of self-assuredness.
The Positive Emotional Memory Database
The key is to create a space in your mind -- like a mental room that you can go into when faced with high stakes situations. Fill this space with memories of specific positive moments in your life in which you were successful and you felt in control.
It generally helps if these are times in which you experienced accolades for your success, whether from friends, colleagues, or an audience. These moments do not have to specifically involve a public speaking experience.
You may have many such memories. I recommend that you focus on the ones that you can remember the most vividly and evoke the greatest feelings of prowess.
Imagine visual representations of these moments, such as photos or video clips that you can literally "watch" in your mind.
For some people, it helps to first create something tangible. That's what I do. I have a wall in my house on which I've put photographs of some of these moments. This wall is indelibly printed in my mind so that I can easily recall when I start feeling nervous.
You may want to create a collage online, or a video reel. Or you may find that you don't need this step, and can create a virtual highlight reel in your mind. Do whatever works best for you.
Access and update
Once you've got this database in your mind, think of it as a mental library that you can go into. Every time you step in, you browse what's there and "check out" the positive emotions that come from it. When you step out of that virtual room, you feel a sense of ease and confidence.
Do this right before a presentation. I shut my eyes and picture my . In that space, my fears subside. I'm filled with regained confidence.
But that's just the beginning. No matter how much you "psych yourself up" before a talk, you may find that your fear resurfaces during it. Or something may go wrong beyond your control.
Once, I was hosting a televised pageant with 60 seconds to air, my TelePrompTer went black. A sense of panic suddenly set in. But as I spoke, I thought about some of those positive memories. I didn't need to shut my eyes. I simply accessed those moments, and the feeling of positivity set in. I was able to seamlessly adlib for 90 seconds (which can feel like a lifetime) until my script reappeared.
Researchers have this effect, finding that positive memories can trigger "a re-experience of positive emotions." They can help us create new .
The more you do this, the more successful your talks will be. Take these experiences and add them to your database, along with other positive experiences that happen, such as getting promoted, completing a marathon, or simply having a great day at work.
I've been updating mine for 30 years. And I work frequently with people in positions of power, such as CEOs and CFOs, who find that they need to keep doing this.
Ultimately, it's a way of building a positive, healthy relationship with yourself. In my workshops and keynotes , I remind people that, yes, you are one person in this vast world, but you are the world to at least one person. Honor that by allowing yourself to see, feel, and re-experience your successes. Over time and with practice, you will develop the confidence you deserve.
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