You never do anything like that …. do you? 😉
Every one of us acts in a very specific way when we get nervous.
People who know us can tell. No matter how hard we try to come across as calm, cool, and collected, our unconscious habits give us away.
Maybe we talk too loud. Or too fast.
Maybe we pace. Tap one foot. Can’t stand still.
Or maybe we sweat. Not just a fresh sheen of perspiration, either. We’re talking visible drops of sweat.
It would be nice if we could turn off our nervous habits at will. “Oops, I’m sweating! Okay, armpits, turn off the tap.”
But we can’t. Nervous habits don’t listen.
And we live in fear that someone will notice.
What if it happens with someone you really like? What if it happens on a date? What if it happens with the person you want most to impress in the entire world?
You can imagine the frown. The revulsion. The quick end to the conversation. The horrible feeling of let-down.
But that doesn’t have to happen.
You actually DO have control over your nervous responses.
Your heart doesn’t have to start racing. You don’t have to panic. You can stay relaxed and be yourself in any encounter, no matter how gorgeous he is.
The key is what experts call presence.
Presence is one of the foundations of charisma. It’s what makes a person stand out in a crowd.
While everyone else is focusing on their phone or hurrying to get where they need to go, the present person strolls in complete confidence, taking in every nuance of his or her surroundings, open to synchronistic encounters.
When you’re present, you’re in the now. You’re not lost in your thoughts or your fears or your worries. You’re in your body. You’re grounded.
That’s important, because one of the things that happens when you get nervous is that your mind takes over. It goes into protection mode, blocking out everything but the urgent situation at hand.
Your sympathetic nervous system kicks in, preparing you to fight or flee. You become oblivious to everything but your performance … a performance that now feels like a disaster.
Here’s how to stop the cycle.
When you feel yourself getting nervous, stay in your body. Don’t let your mind hijack you. Take deep breaths and feel your chest expand. In … out. In … out.
Is Mr. Handsome waiting for you to say something? Then smile at him. And breathe. In … out. In … out.
As you breathe, notice everything about him. Notice the color of his eyes, the way he brushed his hair this morning, whether he’s wearing a watch. See if you can pick up what he’s feeling, what his energy is like.
Let him lead the conversation while you focus on staying present.
When we’re nervous, we tend to breathe shallowly. It feels like everything is happening in the chest. Focus your attention on your belly instead, expanding it with each breath. Let your center of gravity sink deeper.
When nerves strike, there’s an immediate tendency to speed everything up. You do everything fast, just to get it over with.
Staying grounded means deliberately slowing yourself down. Even if it feels too slow.
Choose your words with care. Allow some silence. Don’t be in a rush to fill a pause in the conversation with words. Instead, take the opportunity to breathe and pay attention. Catch his eyes. Let him know you see him.
Mindfulness and meditation are two practices that help enormously in cultivating presence. Comic Amy Schumer credits two 20-minute meditation sessions a day for helping her keep her cool on stage.
Presence is such a rare commodity that those who cultivate it stand out. But there are more compelling reasons to stay present.
Being present helps you get in touch with what some call “the ground of your being.” It’s the part of you that observes your experiences without getting caught up in them.
In his bestseller The Untethered Soul, Michael A. Singer describes what mastering presence feels like:
“You used to walk around feeling anxiety and tension; now you walk around feeling love. You just feel love for no reason. Your backdrop is love. Your backdrop is openness, beauty, and appreciation.”
It feels wonderful to be present. To not have to worry about those nervous reactions. To sink into an experience instead of fighting it.
The starting point couldn’t be simpler.
Just breathe. Slow down. Observe. Be.