Updated: Jul 8, 2021
Overcome Your Fears and Own Your Ideas
Stage fright is something millions of people struggle with, and nearly everyone can recall at least one occasion of feeling singled out and vulnerable. Whether it happened while reading a school essay or work presentation, the cringe-worthy memory of sweaty palms, a fast heartbeat and stuttering words can easily deter a person from ever trying again.
Far too many great artistic and entrepreneurial talents never reach even a fraction of their potential, simply because the fear of exposure to judgement is so strong it overpowers their dreams. Unfortunately, when it comes to public speaking, you’re expected to just “deal” with the discomfort and do it anyway.
But is that really a constructive approach? Even if you do get up on stage and try your best to ignore that inner critic and racing heartbeat, chances are your presentation won’t be nearly as great as it could be.
If you want to maximize your odds as a female entrepreneur, prioritizing confidence as your number one selling tool is essential. By learning to overcome fears of criticism and owning your idea in the spotlight, you will have conquered the first stage of becoming a fierce business woman.
Mastering The Art of Taking Space
If you are an introvert, claiming your space among confident extroverts can be so daunting it halts your pursuit altogether. Even if you consider yourself outgoing and fearless under normal circumstances, pitching your vision on an official platform can be nerve wracking to anyone.
The key to overcoming stage fright is threefold.
You must pinpoint the underlying emotions that catalyze your fears, actively retrain these thought patterns to run in your favor, and then rewire your physical reaction to the event.
1. Pinpoint The Root Cause
If you want to stop imagining scenarios of failure and judgement, it’s crucial to take pragmatic steps to find and address the root cause of your fears. In many cases, the culprit is a deeply buried emotion or inherent belief that no longer serves you; perhaps stemming from a past traumatic experience, or a negative family member’s projected opinions.
Some people find that tools like affirmative thinking, guided meditation or hypnosis work well, while others benefit more from talking about their experiences and feelings in a traditional therapy setting. Sometimes, a cognitive method is the most effective way of eradicating a mental tick that just won’t budge.
No strategy fits everyone, and it’s important to find a method that feels right to make progress. While some may favor a simple and lighthearted approach, your personal definition of a trauma is always entirely unique and valid. If you feel overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to seek professional guidance!
2. Retrain Your Thought Patterns
When your thoughts are guided by your emotions, it’s called emotional reasoning. It’s very difficult to resolve your fears if you keep confirming them with affirmative thoughts like “I’m terrified of doing this, so that must mean doing it is associated with x,y,z danger.”
That said, you can actively replace such detrimental deductions with thoughts that are more conducive to your goals. There are as many ways to go about mindset training as there are fears, but here are a few actionable steps to help move things forward:
Forget words like “perfect” and “failure” If you’re a perfectionist, one of the hardest things to do is admitting perfection doesn’t really exist. While it does mean admitting your own imperfections, it also means you aren’t a complete failure if you don’t live up to your own overbearing expectations. Got up on stage and botched your pitch? Congrats, that was a perfect failure on your way to success! Mastery in any area takes time, and there’s absolutely no reason why you should nail everything you do every single time---especially considering no human in history ever did!
Learn to separate your experiences Just because something happened to you once or twice, doesn’t mean it will happen again. It’s a natural instinct to categorize life as an instinctive measure to safeguard ourselves against pain, but it starts to hamper our happiness when we grow cynical and always assume the worst. Do you instantly decide your best friend will fail in her business, because she made a bad investment once? Are you convinced every pizza in the world tastes bad, because that one restaurant really messed up your pepperoni? Try to adapt a more optimistic inner monologue, and ask a reliable friend to remind you if your own voice isn’t enough!
Readjust your perspective to fit reality When we’re afraid of something or expect too much of ourselves, it’s easy to skew the perspective to some degree. Check the validity of your thoughts to see if maybe, just maybe, you’re blowing your flaws or imagined scenario out of proportion. Will you really drop your pants on stage or is that just unlikely catastrophic thinking? Does your voice really sound horrific when you talk, or is that just your own inner critic speaking? If you haven’t already done so, write down your fears or tell someone all of your “worst” thoughts. Seeing or hearing them in an open manner will provide the perspective you need to realize how irrational a great portion of your worries most likely are.
Reevaluate your perceived necessities If you feel pushed into a corner with sky high expectations, consider the real source of those demands. When you stop overthinking and lower the bar just a bit, you may just find the meanest force behind your performance anxiety came from within all along. When you allow the occasional speck to penetrate your surface, people around you may actually feel relieved and find you more sympathetic. And in the context of business and public speaking, that’s a great thing!
3. Rewire Your Physical Response
If you struggle with feelings of anxiety or panic attacks, you know that changing one’s physical response is far easier said than done. You can analyze your emotions all you want, but if your body won’t obey your thoughts, the result will inevitably be the same.
Some people are able to resolve their fears with a head-on approach, but not everyone can overcome their barriers by just facing the scary situation over and over. If your problem is more severe than a case of stage nerves, throwing yourself to the sharks unprepared can actually make the problem worse. Instead, try taking baby steps that chip away your fears a little each time.
It all goes back to a primitive part of your brain called the amygdala, which rules your so called “fight-or-flight” response. When the amygdala gets triggered by feelings like anxiety, fear or anger, it sends out stress hormones to get you the heck away from or beat the impending threat as fast as possible. It’s an effective function when you’re being ambushed by a wolf, but not so much when you’re holding a live presentation!
The good news is, your cerebral cortex contains two frontal lobes to balance this out with rational thinking and reasoning. This part of your brain isn’t fully formed until your mid-twenties, which means your inborn fight-or-flight reaction had ample time to grow far stronger.
By deliberately and repeatedly provoking said flight reaction in a safe space, you can train your logical reasoning and gradually tone down your trigger happy survival mode.
When you’re deadly afraid of something, such as public speaking or pitching, try subjecting yourself to a similar but less terrifying situation to prepare your nerves. If you find children or seniors less threatening, volunteer as a group reader at the library or nursing home. As a bonus, you’ll have done a good deed while working on yourself!
We hope these tips are helpful to your entrepreneurial journey!
Our goal at Women Founders Network is to empower women of all backgrounds with the training and platform to highlight their talents as valued members and rising stars of our community. If you want to learn more how to approach investors, don’t forget to sign up for our April 7th event to get advice on accessing capital from a panel of seasoned investors!
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