Whenever I have to perform in front of other people, I get really nervous. My mind starts to run away with me…
“What if I make a mistake?”
“What if I look stupid?”
“What if I fail and everyone laughs at me?”
“What if I actually hurt myself or other people” — that was a biggie on my driving test.
And my stomach…well, that makes me want to run to the toilet.
Unless I do something to counteract these feelings, it is fairly likely that I will end up sitting on the nearest bog, a sobbing, gibbering wreck.
Just before I have to perform, when my natural desire to shit all over my dreams (and myself) is at its strongest, I have used affirmations to help calm me down.
An affirmation is a short statement that you say about yourself in the present tense. For example, I am hungry, I am confident, I am scared, I am beautiful.
To “affirm” something means to say that is true, so an affirmation is a short statement that you believe to be true. Or alternatively, you say it and because it is an affirmation, it becomes true.
The first time I used affirmations was to calm myself down before my driving test. My instructor was due to pick me up in an hour and there was no way I was in a fit state to drive let alone think about passing. My nerves were stopping me from thinking straight, I was on the verge of tears and basically a sweaty mess. I started to say to myself out loud over and over and over again.
“I will pass my driving test because I am a confident, competent and safe driver”
I must have said it over 50 times, but the more I said it, the more it calmed me down and the more I started to believe what I was saying.
I could still hear a stupid whiny thought in the back of my head, “but what if you fail?” But my voice was louder than that thought, and it eventually my voice drowned it out completely. I did my test, didn’t shit myself (always a win) and passed with one minor.
The next time I used affirmations was before my most recent job interview. I reaaaaalllly wanted this job, and so the pressure of trying to not balls it up was immense. On the day of the interview, I could feel that same agitated, bubbling feeling, accompanied with a “fuck-fuck-fuck-fuck-fuck-fuck” internal monologue.
I sat in my car and gave myself a stern talking to. “Jeez Alison, you stupid emotional baby, if you don’t get yourself under control, you will mess up this amazing opportunity!” ….
Nothing happened, it didn’t make a blind bit of difference.
So I tried with the affirmations again, “I feel calm and confident. I will impress my interviewers with my skills and experience. I feel excited to show off my presentation skills. I am well prepared and I will answer all questions with ease and confidence.” And I said them over and over and over again, in my car, out loud, like a weirdo. And the same thing happened. I calmed down, started feeling better, smashed the interview and got the job.
Most recently I used affirmations to put myself in the zone before my pole fitness performance. I had never done any “body performance” like this before and so my levels of anxiety were through the roof. Knowing how well affirmations had helped me in the past I started them the week before my performance and said them out loud every day. And as an extra bonus, I even wrote them down in my notebook, exactly like how Bart Simpson does his lines on the blackboard. “I am strong and confident. I will give a great performance. I will enjoy myself!”
Again, the more I said it, the more I wrote it, the more I believed it and the more confident I felt. And when it got to the day of the performance, I was a little bit nervous but it was a lot more manageable and I didn’t even need to go to the loo five times. I gave the best performance I could and I bloody loved it!
These affirmation things were working brilliantly. Of course, I had practiced and prepared for each of these events for hours and hours beforehand, however, in situations like these, it all comes down to how you perform on the day. And if it is possible to psyche yourself out (which I was oh so good at doing), why not try and psych yourself in?
If you think of your mind like a computer, thoughts are like a programming language. They tell you what to do and how to feel. These thoughts sometimes get hijacked by a virus that says stuff that is unhelpful, makes you feel bad and makes you do the opposite of what you want. Affirmations then are like a repeated bit of code that can be uploaded to neutralise the virus and get your operating machinery back on track.
The thing is though, this ugly virus doesn’t just rear itself at times when you need to perform in public. The virus lives there permanently in your head infecting you with doses of fear, worry and doubt. These are felt particularly strongly when you are doing stuff that is related to your deepest desires.
At times it feels like the virus has invaded your whole body. You can no longer hear the thoughts telling you that you are a stupid dick who is going to fail. Instead, you just know them. You know them in the same way that you just know stuff in your dreams even though no one has told you. (You know, the kinda thing where you realise that you’re holding a potato, but actually it is a bomb that is going to explode — but definitely, for all intents and purposes it looks like a potato).
So now I am experimenting with using affirmations every day (rather than for a specific event) in a deliberate attempt to sabotage my virus and programme my body to DO stuff that is in line with my goals.
I’m definitely not perfect and I have a lot of work left to do to improve my confidence, but I do know that the more I say my affirmations (or write them down) the more they become my truth.
If you would like to give them a go, then there are loads on YouTube that you might want to check out. Some of them are great, some are a bit hippy-wishy-washy for my preference. This is why I created an everyday goal crushing affirmation (see below!)
You can listen to it first thing in the morning to set yourself up for the day, or perhaps you would prefer to use it just before you are about to work on your goal to give you an extra confidence and courage boost. I’d love it if you were to try it out and let me know what you think. This stuff has been really helping me, so I want to share it in the hope that it could help you too.
Please share in the comments below, how was your affirmation experience?