Overcoming Nervousness

Some cool ideas about overcoming nervousness before you get up to speak.

A big part of the problem is that we feel a bit like this little guy.

By Mariano Kamp

It's too easy when you're a speaker to think about yourself this way. All alone. Small. Going up against opponents much bigger and more powerful than you (otherwise known as the audience). Sounds a bit silly, but it's exactly what goes on in a lot of speakers' heads ... just before they suck in that last huge lungful and enter the fray, nervously hoping they won't screw up, praying they'll get on and off with some dignity and self respect intact.

Of course the normal advice you get about overcoming nervousness is as predictable as it is useless. You can learn a lot from it though, by exposing the fallacies behind these well meaning titbits.

Let's have some fun with some of the more common ones:

Conventional Wisdom About Overcoming Nervousness - And Why It's Wrong

"Everyone Gets Nervous Before Speaking"

Really? So, in the history of public speaking, no human being has ever spoken without feeling nervous before hand?

We believe a lot of nonsense like this don't we? We think we see the world as it is, whereas the truth is we don't really see at all. We don't perceive ... we conceive. What I mean is simple and incredibly powerful, and it's easily understood by looking at a couple of examples.

Let's say you're about to speak to an audience. If you're nervous about it, you're no longer perceiving what's really going on. Instead you're completely lost in a concept. This concept is a 100% mind-made idea about what's happening, or even more insanely, what's about to happen. I think it was Montaigne who said "My life has been full of disasters. Some of which actually happened."

It's like drinking a cup of coffee. You only taste (perceive) the first mouthful. For the rest of that cup you are drinking a concept, eg 'This is the best coffee I've had in ages."

So it is with speaking. A perception would sound something like "I'm here. The audience is there. I'm being introduced now. In a moment I will begin speaking."

A concept would be like "Oh My God! (or OMG if you prefer). I can't believe I'm about to do this. I'm going to make a fool of myself. They are going to see right through my lack of preparation and then someone's going to ask me a question I can't answer. Oh my God! I feel sick. What if I forget my lines? What if I freeze? What if I puke? God I hate speaking. This is terrible and I'm never doing this again."

You get the idea!

So how do you deal with this concept that's causing you so much trouble? What's the key to overcoming nervousness? Well, try this next time:

  • Understand that it's just a thought, a series of ideas that have appeared in the mind. Insubstantial as any other concept. Completely unable to harm you in any way without your conscious approval.
  • Love it instead of resisting it. Just accept that it's come along and made you nervous. You either love it or fear it - and if it's so insubstantial it seems silly to choose to fear it.
  • Practice just looking at these concepts as they arise, with an attitude of understanding and loving acceptance. You'll get less attached to these poisonous ideas very quickly.

"If You're Not Nervous, You Won't Do A Good Job

This is so silly I almost didn't inclde it. Then I remembered how many times I've heard well meaning people offer it, so I think it's probably doing a lot of damage out there.

One reason this one hurts people is that it removes all possibiity of peole truly loving public speaking. Nervousness is an unpleasant feeling, and it is not natural. This point is so important I'll emphasize ...

Nervousness is not natural.

Just consider how most people react to you when they see you're nervous. They ask "What's wrong?" They instinctively know something is wrong, they don't need to rely on their conditioned mind.

That's because something is wrong.

You made a mistake. You thought your little bad news story (concept) about your upcoming speech was true. And you thought it could hurt you. (Ok so at least 2 mistakes :)

If even one person in the history of humankind, has ever done a good job of a speaking assignment, without feeling nervous beforehand the this little gem, about having to be nervous to do a good job, is a lie.

Well, I can think of plenty of times when I've been praised for a good speech and I wasn't nervous at all beforehand. Could there be more like me? Is that possible? Of course it is.

You'll be the next one, if you remember that being nervous is not natural. If nervousness does happen, just let it be and go speak anyway. Keep coming back to reality though.

A good phrase to recall when overcoming nervousness is "Lose your mind and come to your senses."

What is natural is loving to speak. My 9 month old daughter didn't have to be told this. She's more in love with speaking every day! One day soon we'll even understand what she's saying!

Loving to speak in public is just as natural. It just isn't that common yet.

What that means is that when you speak without nervousness ... you're exceptional. People need that.

"Everyone Gets Butterflies - The Trick Is To Get THem Flying In Formation

A nice little picture that at least attempts to point to the fact that you're in control.

The only problem I have with this one is that it suggests you have to do something. You have to marshall those little flying critters in your belly and get them organised. Unfortunately you've got as much chance of overcoming nervousness by consciously controlling yourself like this, as you have of herding cats.

Happily the answer is much simpler, and much easier.


Not the soppy, rubbishy type that Hollywood has brainwashed us into believing is the norm. I mean love in its true sense. Accepting and welcoming what is.

Next time you get nervous, just watch like an affectionate parent. Try to actually perceive what's going on - with your senses. A slight tingling in the abdomen. An slight increase in the heart rate. A little more perspiration. Hmmm.

Some speakers say to approach the daily ups and downs of life with the attitude "Isn't that interesting". While that's way better than "Oh My God Isn't That Awful", it's still a concept. The sensations you feel when you're nervous are neither awful nor interesting.

They just are.

They can't hurt you.

Please remember you're not a weak pawn in this game. The key to overcoming nervousness is to remember who you really are.

By Manuel Marin

You are as powerful as any speaker in the history of humanity. You have the ability to speak with absolutely no nervousness at all. Overcoming nervousness is well within your abilities, right now. You just need understanding, practice and above all, love.

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