How to stomach your butterflies

Author: Nick Cain

When it comes to any type of public speaking or performance, it’s my inherent caveman and his survival instinct that proves to me slightly worrisome.

It’s my primal, age-old human programming telling me to avoid, with all my primitive might, being singled out of the pack. Because being singled out means fear of certain death by a large, exotic animal with impressively sharp teeth.

My modern inner-city, latte-sipping self knows this might be a slight over-reaction in this day and age.

But my modern self can’t deny figurative death might just occur on stage if l get up in front of my peers and let the swarm of butterflies in my stomach accumulate to zoo-like proportions.

As a trained actor, content producer, public speaker, radio and podcast host – public speaking has become pretty regular for me.

Over the journey, l’ve learnt a thing or two about nerves. I’ve certainly had them. Still do.

But there have been key learnings in dealing with nerves from the various forums l’ve managed to express myself in that may help you get the jump on the fear of public speaking.

Firstly, those nerves aren’t going anywhere…Sorry.

Nerves are a natural part of the human condition.

In fact, if you’re experiencing nerves it means you’re actually ALIVE and your body is working as it should.

Congratulations – you’ve survived all the perils of life to be one of the lucky ones…and in another stroke of luck, there’s no large mammal on the chase.

The first step in dealing with nerves is all about accepting they occur. Everyone has them, no one is beyond them.

It comes down to how you ACCEPT and EMBRACE the nerves as an energy to be harnessed.

What does that feel like?

Don’t shy away from self-analysis or shut down at a time like this. It’s vital.

How can you regulate and improve without the awareness of stimuli to inform you what is needed?

If the nerves are there, you are also probably experiencing a shallowness of breathe. That’s your old caveman self once again reacting on instinct.

Good on him for preserving your vital support systems by conserving breath and energy.

However, there is no death threat and your inner caveman never had to present the latest creative concept to a client.

It’s time to evolve…So what to do?

Breathe. Deep and long. Steady and sustained.

Make it purposeful.

Did you know the only difference between NERVES and EXCITEMENT is whether or not you’re BREATHING?

Think about it!

It’s the same nerves you face when you’re skydiving as it is when you’re public speaking.

One of them however, is considered fun. So we breathe deeply and dive in head first.

Change the conversation and get your body working on your terms and you’ve given yourself every chance to use your preparation and knowledge to be dynamic and exciting in front of your audience.

So no longer are nerves a bad thing. They mean you care about the subject and the outcome.

What would happen if you actually EMBRACED that energy as a fun, positive thing and supported that with the oxygen you needed to succeed?

It may take practice, adjustment and constant awareness, but anything worth doing takes practice and vigilance.

As Georges St-Pierre once said “It’s OK to get butterflies in your stomach, the key it to learn how to make them fly in formation”.

That’s the evolutionary progress of the human body at its finest.

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