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Analyzing Anxiety

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” – Maya Angelou

Are there many people in the audience?

  • Large audiences can seem overwhelming, but remember: These people in the audience are like you. No matter how many there are, they also get nervous, get hungry, get sleepy, etc. Imagine them as though they are a group of new friends — people who want to get to know you.

Is it hard to speak in front of strangers?

  • We often worry that people might judge our intelligence or our worth as people.
    The kind of people who would judge your intelligence or worth based on one speech — Do you have a reason to value their opinion?
  • We often worry that our opinion is unpopular, or our information is wrong.
    But, if unpopular opinions were never expressed, no progress would be made, and, is anyone ever totally, 100% right all the time? If your information is wrong, learn from the situation and move on — any person who ridicules you about it needs to check their arrogance.
  • Teacher tip: Students who work hard and yet continue to worry about failure almost always worry for nothing.

Does it feel as though the audience expects you to be a certain way?

  • Part of preparation is knowing your audience and the rules for the speaking situation. Beyond rules of formality that may or may not be in play, speaking on a huge stage with spotlights is not much different from speaking in a small room with friends.
  • Know your material, respect your audience, practice beforehand, and remember that you are having a conversation.
  • There is no such thing as a perfect presentation. The best speakers still stumble from time to time.

What have your past speaking experiences been like?

  • If they have been negative, what caused the problem? Was it something you can control? If so, what can you do to solve the problem?
  • Do you have any reason to believe that what has happened before will happen again? Hint: It usually does not.
  • The best speakers got that way by learning from their negative experiences and refusing to give up.

Are you afraid of failing?

  • If you know you have done the work to prepare for your speech — you have researched, organized your thoughts, and practiced — then why do you expect failure? Answer: You should not expect failure. If you have researched, organized, and practiced, you should expect success.
  • Beware self-fulfilling prophecy: If you expect negative results, you are more likely to get them. If you expect positive results, you are more likely to get them. Our emotional cues of negative or positive expectation tend to get matching results in return.

Remember: There is no shame in asking for help.

If you feel your anxiety is consistently affecting your health and preventing your success, make the time to seek the aid of a professional counselor.

Follow this link to practical advice on coping with anxiety.

Follow this link for some introductory information about anxiety reduction exercises.

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