I was honoured to be asked to speak at a summer school graduation ceremony last year. It was a summer school for high school students who perhaps weren’t achieving the grades that they were capable of. For a week or two they had the opportunity to experience what life is like at university. The point of the summer school is to inspire the students to push their studies a little further so they can have the opportunity attend university full time.
I assumed that I’d be speaking to a room of school students. Not that it should matter really, but when you’ve imagined the what room will look like in your mind, and it’s not like that when you get there, it can throw you off slightly.
When I arrived at the University of St Andrews there were not only students in the room, but their siblings, mothers, fathers and gr andparents. A lot more people than I expected, and a completely different audience.
My Mum said she was going to come along to support me, but it turns out she couldn’t make it.
I was sitting in the front row waiting for the ceremony to begin, and as I watched all the people coming in to the room I sent a text to my Mum to tell her that there were a lot more people here than I expected, and that I was little nervous.
Do you get nervous when you are preparing to speak in pubic? I certainly do.
Anyone that says they don’t are probably telling a fib, or they aren’t trying hard enough to deliver a good talk or presentation.
However, this isn’t just about getting nervous about speaking in public, but rather about being anxious about anything that’s taking place in your life.
The three words that my Mum said next really put me at ease.
She said “Just be yourself”
I was still nervous but I felt much more in control in how I was feeling.
Thinking back it seems ridiculous that I had gotten so anxious that I forgot who I was.
Be yourself; everyone else is already taken – Oscar Wilde
Maybe he said it, maybe he didn’t, but who cares, right? It’s the sentiment that matters.
It’s true that we spend our days and our limited time on Earth trying to be like other people.
It’s tiring, boring, stressful and unfulfilling.
I think that we are all guilty of forgetting who we are. We’re too busy trying to be the person that other people want us to be, or trying to meet the expectations of other people.
We forget to just be ourselves and end up trying to imitate other people. Perhaps people that we look up to and respect.
We use other people’s words and stories as our own, we behave in ways the other people would expect us to behave.
We are far too influenced by other people’s attitudes and philosophies – both good and bad.
What other people think of you is none of your business
The anxiety and nervousness I was experiencing prior to speaking came from living in the future – thinking about what could go wrong, or what other people might think of me.
When my Mum said “just be yourself” it relaxed me and I knew that I couldn’t do anything wrong by being myself.
In truth, what other people think of me is none of my business.
We all need to remember to be true to ourselves, and this is not a selfish statement.
By being true to yourself you will be happier, more focussed, have more clarity and be less stressed and anxious. In turn, you will be a better person to your spouse, your brother or sister, a better son and a better person all round.
The best thing you can do for you and for everyone else is to just be yourself.
Don’t forget to be awesome!