Thursday, July 3, 2014

Tripping Over Your Tongue, or Why Was I So Worried?

The title of my speech ended up being Tripping Over Your Tongue. According to my professor, most speech titles have a verb in them. I don't know that I've seen many speech titles, so I can't verify from experience whether or not this is true. Considering it was part of the grade, I didn't want to take a chance.

Tuesday, I did everything I knew how to do to boost my confidence. I wore my hair in a soft side pony. I wore a new green, chiffon, belted dress that I got multiple compliments on before class even started. I would have worn heels, but I have about a quarter mile walk from my car to my classroom. I even distracted myself with the USA soccer game (the classmate from the coffee shop and I watched the last quarter of it together in the hallway before class). Once class started, though, I went back to a trembling puddle of nerves. It didn't help that I had to move my seat so the professor could sit right directly in the middle of the classroom. I guess everyone else needed a distraction at that moment, too, so everyone watched me walk all the way around the room to switch seats. I was already afraid of falling down that I ran into a chair.

Fortunately, even though my name is always first on the roster, I did not have to speak first. I had a few minutes to watch other people fumble through, play with the podium, and a couple who knocked it out of the park. I decided to go after I got some pressure from my friend and my professor asked me if I was ready. I wasn't ready. I was NOWHERE near ready, but this was one of those do-or-die moments. So I agreed. I very slowly and politely handed in my formal outline, took a deep breath, and slid out of my chair. I think the funeral dirge was playing as I was walking up to the front of the class, but I can't be sure. That may have just been my heart in my throat. Coffee shop classmate smiled at me. Classmate friend smiled at me. Professor smiled at me. I took a deep breath, and the next five minutes flew by. I stumbled a couple of times, but luckily had anchor points all the way across the classroom. One on my right. One dead center. One to my left. When I felt like I was going to faint, I made eye contact with my people. I'm not sure I would have done as well without them, and OH did I do well!

My voice, while feeling disconnected from my body, was strong. My hands were still. I smiled when appropriate, emoted my "Get Excited!" so loud it rang across the room, and my closing was delivered with the perfect beat. I took my notes and walked back to my seat. My teacher whispered "Very well done, Amy", classmate friend patted me on the shoulder, and coffee shop classmate was smiling at me. I got more compliments at the break. My professor even pulled me aside after class (the first time I've been asked to stay after a class IN MY LIFE) to tell me she couldn't believe that I was so nervous because I had done so well.

Looking back, I can't tell why I was so nervous. I did the necessary research, I practiced relentlessly, I hi-lighted my speaker's outline, and I was confident. I was ready, I was just afraid. I took my nervous energy and channeled it into that excitement that Alison Wood Brooks was talking about. We have another speech due in two weeks, and this time I'm ready. I'm not afraid. Well, I'm a little afraid, but some fear and anxiety are normal. This time, I might even go second or third!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Glossophobia, or Why I Have Problems Speaking in Front of People

I am terrified of speaking in front of people. Coincidentally, I also HAVE to take a public speaking class for my degree. It's not optional. I literally HAVE to take and pass this class. So far, we've given a 45-second introduction on another classmate, and a two-minute speech on what we would take with us off of a sinking ship if we knew we were going to be stranded on a deserted island. I bluffed my way through the first one, and stuttered through the second, forgetting half of my explanations for why I would bring what I would bring.

This week is my first graded speech, so obviously I am not breathing. I spent the whole weekend researching and writing, only stopping long enough to go have coffee with a classmate. Instead of summarizing the whole thing, I'm just going to post it here for you. Keep in mind I only had one week to complete it. Everything is put into my own words and I've tried to cite any necessary sources verbally. It had to be five minutes long, but if you have any interest in the subject of glossophobia or speech anxiety, you might find it interesting.

Without further ado . . .

When I was in 7th grade I was given an assignment by my favorite English teacher – to give a speech about racism. Growing up in a small town, racism was everywhere from my school cafeteria to my church on Sundays. The number one thing I heard was the debate over why we had Martin Luther King Day off. I formulated an idea that I called “Great American Men in History Day”, wrote a riveting 3 minute speech on the topic, printed out pictures of who I felt were great American men in history, and practiced my speech instead of my music. Finally the day of the speech came. I curled my hair, wore an outfit that my modeling instructor had praised me for, and thought I was ready to go. That is, until I got to the podium. My hands were shaking, my voice refused to project and instead came out raspy and crackling, and I completely forgot my visual aids. I even got points taken off of my speech because of my physical reaction. To this day I am still terrified to speak in front of people, a condition known as glossophobia. I have now spent over 14 hours researching this phobia, and today I am going to tell you what glossophobia is, how it affects us physically, and give you some steps to overcome it.

Let’s start with the definition of glossophobia. Put in its simplest terms, it is the fear of public speaking. The name comes from the Greek word “glossa” meaning tongue, and “phobos” meaning phobia. It is also commonly referred to as speech anxiety. According to Dr. Dan J. Stein, the Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cape Town, in his 2011 paper titled “Subtyping Social Anxiety Disorder in Developed and Developing Countries”, about 22% of the world population suffers from a fear of speaking or performing in front of other people. After thoroughly searching through every journal, article, and blog post I could find one thing is for certain – no one yet understands the underlying cause of glossophobia. It is thought to come from traumatic childhood speaking experiences like the one I’ve shared with you. Other possible causes are low self-esteem, expectation of failure, an illusion of transparency – where a speaker feels that their audience can see exactly how he or she is feeling, and the spotlight effect – where the speaker feels like everyone in the audience is paying more attention to their shortcomings or even a spot on her tshirt than they actually are.

Now let’s take a look at how glossophobia affects you. We all know the outward symptoms – your hands are shaky, your breathing is shallow, you feel like your heart is going to beat right out of your chest, and your throat feels like there’s a golf ball lodged in it. You may even become dizzy. These are all physiological responses to your sympathetic nervous system dumping adrenaline into your bloodstream. The sympathetic nervous system – what you might know as your fight-or-flight response – is programmed to detect danger in our everyday lives. In public speaking, there is no real danger – at least not the type that we are biologically hardwired to avoid, such as the threat of injury or death – but there is the threat of embarrassment and failure. Your brain subconsciously detects this threat and prepares your body to run away from the threat. This results in the outward symptoms that plague so many of us when we walk up to the podium. A second theory exists, championed by Dr Jeffrey Gray of the Institute for Psychology in London, that a feature of the human brain called the comparator quote “detects conflict between an organisms goals and current environmental conditions” end quote. In other words, this feature detects if there are likely to be negative consequences to our actions. If the possibility exists, then the comparator switches on what Dr Gray refers to as the behavior inhibition system which will then shut down motor function. This is why we sometimes become tongue tied, have a feeling of being frozen on the spot, or even unable to speak. In both cases, continued exposure to the threat without negative repercussions does cause the physiological response to lessen – basically, the more you speak in front of people the more your brain calms down.

Now that you know what glossophobia is, and how it affects you physically, let’s look at some ways to overcome it. In an article titled “How Can I Overcome My Fear of Public Speaking?” Dr. Daniel Hall-Flavin, a psychiatrist from Rochester Minnesota, suggests that knowing your topic inside and out, being organized, practicing until you’re tired of hearing your own voice, visualizing success for yourself, and doing some deep breathing exercises can help abate your speech anxiety. A study produced by Alison Wood Brooks, assistant professor of Business Administration at Harvard University, suggests that channeling your anxiety into excitement can help improve your performance. Telling yourself out loud “I am excited!” or even writing “get excited” on the top of your speaker’s outline can trigger an excited physiological reaction.

In conclusion, glossophobia – also known as speech anxiety - affects about 22% of the world’s population. The exact causes of the phobia are unknown, but are thought to be a traumatic childhood experience, low self-esteem, or illusions of transparency and the spotlight effect. Our nervous reactions are caused by our sympathetic nervous system, and possibly a feature in our brain called the comparator, both of which can halt our physical actions in the case of a perceived threat. Ways to overcome glossophobia are by knowing our material, practicing, visualizing ourselves succeeding, deep breathing exercises, and channeling our anxiety into excitement. Anyone can become a great public speaker, and while anxiety is a normal and healthy part of our everyday lives, it does not have to rule them.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Monday's Blog is Full of Thanks

Once again I am consistently inconsistent. At least some things never change! This week I am thankful for:

1) Pinterest - as always. What did we do before Pinterest? How much time did we spend pouring through articles and crappy websites looking for the one recipe or piece of information we were looking for? Better question though - is Pinterest making us lazy?

2) Coffee/Tea - always. Always always always. The time of year for Pumpkin Spice creamer has come to a close and I admit I'm more sad than anyone should be. There's always creme brulee creamer, and that makes me happy, too.

3) Refocusing - Last week my sister called me screaming. I mean, screaming - I was holding the phone 5 inches away from my head and I could still hear her clear as day. She messed up her tax form when she started at her new job and now has to pay in over $500. As she ranted and raved like a woman possessed, something she said struck home with me. She said she didn't understand why no one had ever taught her this. She can pythagorean the hell out of that theorum, but ask her to fill out a tax document or balance a checkbook and she's lost. That's why I started doing this, though. This little blog was not supposed to be filled with beauty products and reviews, it was supposed to be filled with those most basic life skills that no one ever teaches us girls when we're younger. Because of my sister and her financial tragedy, I am now refocused and ready to take on the world.

4) Remembering I am a writer - I downloaded an ebook from NoiseTrade.com (go check it out, seriously), who have recently started doing books. The first page made me take a hard look at myself. When I was in middle school, I wrote children's books for my little sister (notice she's a central player in my life). When I was in high school I started writing chapter books, usually about girls living on horse farms because that was my interest, but my friends always loved my latest installments. Then I graduated. I journaled, of course, to vent my frustrations. Then each of my boyfriends took it upon themselves to read my journals, so I stopped. Since then I write papers. I write proposals. I write emails, text messages, and a few blog posts. Somewhere along the line, I forgot that I AM A WRITER. Just because I don't get paid for it doesn't mean I'm not one. This book reminded me of that (I'll review when I'm done with it).

5) Remembering to write in my own voice - I responded to a peer's discussion post last week and realize that I sound like a textbook when I write. How boring is that? I'm committing myself to writing in my own voice from now on. Facts can still be conveyed by a quirky blonde, and they probably sound more interesting.

We all know I hate New Year's Resolutions, but I think if I had to say something about mine in a meet and greet it would probably be either #3, 4, or 5. I prefer to call them goals and opportunities for growth, but these are the things I want to work on in the next 12 months. Or 10 - whatever. For 2014. We'll go with that.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Monday's Blog is Full of Thanks

If you've been following my Vlogmas series, then you know I've had a terrible month. It's times like this that, as much as I hate to admit it, I actually have trouble being thankful for the little things in my life. When it feels like the whole world is collapsing around you the best thing you can do is count your blessings. Let's be real though - when it feels like everything good is coming down in your life it's hard to remember that you have blessings. This isn't just a "first world problem". This is a serious problem, and one that is fairly common. We all experience a sense of hopelessness from time to time, and it is completely normal. Just remember that it will get better, and there is absolutely no shame is going to see a therapist. Most companies have an employee assistant plan (EAP) that will give you 3 - 5 free visits per year and they're usually handled by an outside company so your employer will never know.

It took me the entire week to come up with my list for today's blog, but I finally managed to get one together!

1) My new velcro drink coozie from PersonalizationMall.com - it's pink and has rhinestones and has my name on it. I wrap it around my water bottles to keep them from freezing my fingers and dripping all over the table.

2) My new metal water bottle from PersonalizationMall.com - I bought a white bottle with polka dots and my name on it. Plastic water bottles are great, but they tend to grow bacteria and get scuzzy.

3) Christmas decorations - My whole house is Christmas-y right now, and I love it.

4) Trips to St Augustine - I live about an hour and a half from the beach. St. Augustine has their entire town decorated with Christmas lights, and I had planned to go with my boyfriend. Since I no longer have one of those and my best friend knew how much I wanted to go, she piled me into her truck yesterday and took me to see the lights and to do a ghost tour. The lights were gorgeous, and the ghost tour was super creepy!

5) Vlomas - I'm having trouble keeping up with vlogging everyday, but it is a great exercise and giving me some great practice at making vlogs.

*This post was NOT sponsored by PersonalizationMall.com. I bought a Groupon several months ago and had planned to use it for a gift for my boyfriend. When it became obvious I didn't have to buy him anything, I bought myself a present for Christmas.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Monday's Blog is Full of Thanks


It's been a while. I've told you guys I am consistently inconsistent, and this is a perfect example. Since it's Monday, let's pick back up with a blog full of thanks!

1) Banana chips - I've been obsessed with them lately, even to the point that I'm figuring out how to make them myself since the ones you buy from the store are fried. That adds dozens of extra calories that you don't need.

2) Pumpkin Spice Coffee creamer - Yes, I am a pumpkin spice fanatic. I admit it.

3) Pumpkin Spice K-cups - Again, pumpkin spice fanatic. Maybe I should find a support group. There has to be one on Facebook, right?

4) How I Met Your Mother on Netflix - I'm in the middle of writing my final research paper for my Social Psychology class, and the 21 minute episodes are perfect for quick study breaks.

5) I'm having trouble pinpointing a 5th thing for today. There's so much, and some things I've already listed - my boyfriend for keeping me sane while I was cooking for Thanksgiving, my puppy for the early morning snuggles right before the alarm goes off, my new laptop that I got just for school and work. There's a lot to be thankful for!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Monday's Blog is Full of Thanks

It's Monday here on the blog, and this is the day we stop to be thankful for the little things in life. Monday is usually a terrible day for everyone. It's hard getting back into the swing of things after having two or three days off, but stopping for a minute to remember the things in your life that make you happy can lighten the tone of the day.

My five for the week:

1) Appliances - the other day I was washing dishes, doing laundry, and making dinner at the same time. Modern technology is a great thing!

2) Days off - this week I had a problem with my allergies and because of that my eye was inflamed. I took Friday off to go get it checked out. Itchy inflamed eye aside it was great to be able to sleep in for an hour and make breakfast and spend the rest of the day relaxing while I waited on the doctor to call me (I got put on "the list").

3) Movie marathons - the boy and I had one last night and it was the perfect way to spend a rainy Saturday night.

4) My split coffee table - I have two parsons tables in my living room that I normally have pushed together to make one large table, but when there are multiple people in my living room they can be separated and moved where ever they are needed. It makes my life so much easier.

5) Purse sized notebooks - I've been writing blog ideas, video ideas, and to-do lists like a madwoman this weekend so it's been great having a notebook in my purse at all times.

What are your five for this week? Let me know in the comments below!