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Nerves… how to deal with them

So you have this great big presentation coming up, or an interview for your dream job, or an important dance show/recital that might help propel you to the next level of your career, and you are nervous as all hell. We’ve all been there with the nerves thing and the funny thing is that although we logically know that being nervous will not at all help our chances of success, we still get nervous. Some of us feel nervousness so intensely that we get uncontrollable tremors, vomit, and become paralyzed in some severe cases. Just in case you were wondering, everyone gets nervous. So please don’t feel like a wuss if you tend to get really nervous. You might be surprised to hear that even the guy who is widely considered as one of the greatest male tennis players of all time of all time – Roger Federer – said he still got nervous right before matches 10+ years after he played his first professional match.

As usual, I’ll keep it real on here… it isn’t likely that the nervousness that you and I feel before events or moments that we perceive as being really important will ever go away. The good news is that you can get better at controlling the nervousness that you feel and even evolve to a state where you actually use it to propel you to higher levels of performance. A big key to dealing with nervousness can be summed up in one word – PRACTICE.

It’s probably fair to say that all of us have heard of the virtues of practice somewhere in our formal or informal educational experiences as human beings. We are told things like “practice makes perfect” or “10,000 hours of dedication makes the master”. While these popular opinions about the virtues of practice are largely true, we often aren’t told why. Let’s take some time to see if we can make sense of it.

When you practice something intensely enough, something strange starts to happen. The knowledge and mastery of what you are doing gradually gets transferred from your conscious mind to your sub conscious mind. If you keep going, you’ll get so good at what you are doing to the point where you know how to do whatever it is, but you don’t consciously know how you know how. This is why the best guitar players can play and sing/talk at the same time. They are using the conscious mind to do the talking, but the melodies and notes they are belting out from whatever guitar they are carrying is hardwired/embedded in their subconscious minds.

It stands to reason therefore that the more we practice our presentations, answers to potential interview questions, or our dance moves (I personally need a lot of work on this last one… LOL), the less our tendency towards nervousness will affect us come showtime. It should be noted that this type of mastery comes from tens of thousands of repetitions… which is to say that you almost have to practice the same song, speech, dance move, etc till you literally can’t stand it anymore. Getting to this point of mastery is really when the nerves you’ll inevitably feel affect you much less than they otherwise would. This is part of the reason why athletes, musicians, and other performers practice their routines ad nauseum and a good reason why you should probably get in the habit of doing the same. From all of us here at, take care of yourselves and each other.
Without Wax
Oyolu B.C. Ph.D.

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