-The quiet kid in class who never liked to be the center of attention.
-The one hesitant about raising his hand to ask questions because he thought everyone would laugh.
-The one who gets a massive lump in the throat when asked to speak in public.
-The one who constantly fears any social setting because he or she might be put on the spot.
-The one whose heart beats like a drum when someone asks to stand up and introduce yourself.
I first looked into confidence skill building after a work promotion in 2014. With the new job, came new opportunities, including stepping out of my comfort zone and giving many…many presentations.
At first, I hated it. Any chance I’d get, I’d think about calling in sick or passing it on to the next person.
After the first few presentations, I decided to look for ways to start building some of these skills my job demanded, and that honestly, I wanted.
When my daughter started 6th grade, I began seeing a shift in her confidence and self-esteem. She was all fun and loud around family at home, but put her in a social environment, and she shut down quick.
I tried speaking to her about her social anxiety and confidence, but she wanted no part of it. I even tried relating with stories of my being socially awkward growing up, but again, she tuned me out.
I expanded my research outside of public speaking and started reading everything I could on confidence, anxiety, teen issues, etc.
Getting Past the hurdles
I had three 3 goals: to improve my anxiety and confidence of public speaking, assist my daughter with her confidence and anxiety issues, and to ensure I find the right steps to build confidence with my 2 other kids.
Here’s how I’m both learning and teaching the art of confidence:
-Step outside your comfort zone. Nobody is going to do the work for you. I knew that if I want to see improvement, I had to physically and emotionally seek ways to do so.
Years ago, I made a commitment to myself: Identify my weak areas and continue improving on them. Both my my future and for my kids.
-Join a group. When you start feeling like you’re almost ready to get in front of people, look into joining a group, like a book club, art club, speaking club. Anything to get you out there and practicing.
I joined Toastmasters International. There are few places I know of where it’s okay to try public speaking without anyone judging. I found out about Toastmasters 2 years ago and decided to go all in.
My first meeting, I jumped up and volunteered for Table Topics (an impromptu speech of 1-2 minutes). My hands were sweaty, heart beating rapidly, tunnel vision, you name it…
Know what happened when I gave that first impromptu speech? Everyone applauded, because everyone in Toastmasters has, at one point, had a tough time speaking in public.
Even now, as I’ve recently moved to a new state, I quickly found a new Toastmasters club nearby where I can practice this precious skill.
-Breathing. Important for 2 reasons: staying alive and staying in control.
Try this: When you’re in a less than desirable situation, slowly breathe in (4 seconds) through your nose, slowly breathe out through your mouth (4 seconds, curl your lips slightly like a whistle motion). You’ll slow that heart rate, and calm your anxiety.
-Visualize. Take a second and imagine yourself giving that awesome presentation, or standing up and speaking…and killing it! I do it all the time and it works.
This is a cognitive tool athletes, speakers, business people use visualize all aspects of success. Imagine yourself making that game-winning shot, landing that interview, closing that sale.
There are few things we can do to psych ourselves out, but imagining yourself making a great presentation, being social, or doing something outside your comfort zone will absolutely work.
-Care less. Yes, that’s right, care less.
Don’t get this one confused with being careless. By caring less, I mean don’t put the task at hand on a pedestal, don’t overwork yourself worrying about what can happen.
Much of the anxiety comes from trying to perfect a presentation and overly thinking about what others think of you.
It sounds strange, but before any presentation, I look at myself in the mirror and say “I don’t give a shit!”
These are just some steps I use to overcome anxiety and build confidence in any situation. I’m teaching my kids the same, and I hope to pass it on to anyone who may need a little push in the right direction.
By the way, if you didn’t catch it, that kid in this intro above…that was me, many years ago. Funny thing is, these days not much has changed, my heart still pounds when in social settings, but I’ve learned to mentally psych myself out pretty damn well.