In my freshman year of college, I nabbed the starring role in the two-person play, The Owl and the Pussycat. Opening night, in front of my parents, my friends, students, and professors, I walked onto the stage of the world-famous Annenberg Center… and promptly forgot my lines. All of them.
This ginormous blunder left me with a fear of speaking in front of people without scripted notes. It was imperative that I find a way to overcome this fear so I could pursue my dreams and goals. In my vocation as a lawyer, I had to speak in front of judges without notes. In my avocation as an opera singer, I had to perform in front of people without sheet music.
It’s tough to soldier on through the fear of failure, knowing that failure is something at which you have truly succeeded! The following strategies helped me overcome the jitters that were holding me back from speaking without notes because I had royally bombed in the play.
Gain Some Perspective
As a kid, when I was frightened that I might not do well on an upcoming exam, my mother would comfort me by putting the exam in perspective. She’d say, “What’s the worst that could happen? You flunk a test. It’s not life or death.” Whatever gaff you’ve made and fear you might make in the future, your mind will be relieved to the extent you can gain some perspective.
Stay in the Present
Practice keeping your mind focused on what’s happening right now. What happened in the past does not exist in the present. It can’t touch you. It’s in the ethers. If you practice staying in the present moment and don’t dwell or ruminate on the past, your anxiety has an opportunity to loosen its chokehold.
Know that Confidence Follows Competence
My voice teacher taught me that confidence comes with competence. The more her students went on auditions, the less petrified they were to sing in front of judges. Likewise, the more I gained experience in the courtroom, the less petrified I was to speak in front of judges. So, keep going. Even if practice doesn’t make perfect, at least it makes less petrified.
See Everything as Your Teacher
In the School of Practical Philosophy, we learn that everything in front of you is your teacher. When we learn to look at our missteps and fiascos as our teachers, as something to learn from, we gain a refreshingly positive perspective.
Adopt a Champion Ice Skater’s Mentality
A gold medal ice skater knows the ice-cold truth: It’s impossible to become a champion without falling. It’s clear that falling is built into the championship process. There’s not a champion ice skater anywhere who hasn’t tumbled in front of family and friends. In front of the judges. In front of the world. It’s precisely because they don’t let the falls hold them back that they have a chance to become champions.
Adopt the champion skater’s mentality and know that setbacks of greater or lesser degrees are built into the long process of becoming your best.
About the Author
Diane Young Uniman, aka Princess Diane von Brainisfried, is a lawyer-turned certified positive psychology life coach. She writes and gives seminars on happiness and positivity. She wrote the award-winning book, Bonjour, Breast Cancer–I’m Still Smiling!…Wit, Wisdom, & Optimism for Beating the Breast Cancer Blues. She’s been featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul (upcoming), Brides, FAB-UK Magazine, and more. She writes a lifestyle & happiness blog from a funny princess point of view at https://www.princessdianevonb.com/blog.