“No way would I get up on stage and speak” “My mind went completely blank”
“My heart races and my knees shake” “What will they think?”
“I’m sure they think I’m stupid”
These are the thoughts that many of us have about speaking to one or more people, and especially when we have to speak to a large group.
We like to be liked and we like to be in control of situations. When we are speaking one-to-one it is easier to maintain control because we can watch their facial expression, we can read what they are thinking, and we can adjust what we say according to their reaction. When there is more than one we cannot be looking closely at everyone at the same time and we may miss valuable clues to their reaction. We are looking for reactions all the time, because that is what we experience in many of our relationships and therefore that is what we use to adapt our behaviour.
This way of being comes from an underlying anxiousness based on us needing external confirmation that we are OK.
Question: Why do we need this external confirmation?
Answer: Because we don’t know who we truly are.
We tend to identify ourselves with our roles and what we do in life, and see ourselves as just a human being with all our issues and problems… but we are so much more than that.
When we allow ourselves to be still and feel inside our bodies, we can feel a deeper sense of our being something greater than our physicality and we can know that what happens outside of us is simply a reflection of how we choose to live.
When we live in such a way that our bodies have stillness inside, i.e. no stimulants like coffee or sugar, no indulging in exciting dramas, we can actually feel what needs to be expressed in any situation. When we feel that impulse, it doesn’t matter what other people think, something needs to be expressed, we say it and then let it go, knowing that we’ve done what needed to be done.
Our anxiousness, our need to control, makes us ill. Some people develop mental health issues such as panic attacks or OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), some have palpitations that lead to ongoing heart disease, some have poor digestive systems, and there are many physical symptoms we don’t even realise that are caused by our underlying level of anxiousness.
When it comes to giving a presentation the way anxiousness affects us physically is that before we start we get butterflies in our stomach and may have sudden diarrhoea. Once we are in front of people we get shaky knees so that our whole body including our voice shakes, our minds can go blank, we forget what we wanted to say, and we can’t feel the audience so can’t feel what needs to be said. In other words, we lose our connection with our deeper selves, we are presenting without presence.
Presence means we are in touch with our bodies and living absolutely in each moment, not thinking of things past or future, simply being where we are right now, feeling our feet, feeling our bodies, feeling around us, sensing the audience and then saying whatever is there to be said without imposing any of our own ideals and beliefs onto them.
One of the ways we can reconnect at any time is to focus on our breath: not deep breaths, but very gentle breaths, in and out through the nose. When we do that even just for a few minutes, standing, sitting or lying down, our whole body can relax and let go. Here’s a link to some audios you can listen to that talk you through. The Gentle Breath Meditation is a simple way to reduce anxiousness, restore your sense of self and regain conscious presence.