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I'm a senior college student and had to do a seminar presentation yesterday. Large class (35 or so), many of whom represent the bulk of my grad classmates. One of my more boisterous classes too. Took some prescribed beta blockers about an hour prior.

It was a trainwreck. I stammered, my mouth got really dry, I struggled over longer words that normally I can easily pronounce. Read directly from the screen for much of it and when I tried to explain or put things into my own words it was like pulling teeth trying to string together something coherent.

Although I'm glad it's over with now, I still feel embarrassed.

My question is this - I noticed a thread in the poll section asking what helps with SA the most. By a large margin the most popular answer was being forced to perform socially. Sounds reasonable. Can anybody here really attest to that? Hypothetically, could I spend a couple weeks in "SA Rehab" hell and thereafter be cured, or at least much better? Is joining toastmasters a smart move? (my counsellor and/or psychiatrist, while encouraging me to practice (socializing), think that TM is not a good idea). Thoughts?
 

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I force myself to be social in public. You have to sometimes, I believe it is the best therapy for oneself too as they did in the poll.
 

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Longing to be Free
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In high school I used to just take the zero by not showing up for presentations. In college, however, I got desperate for better grades, so what I did was prepare exactly what I was going to say, word for word, practice alone a lot, and memorize it. Then at the presentation, I would try hard to zone out and just recite from memory, as if there was no one else. Of course there was no body language or contact with the audience, and I was monotone and robotic while being nervous and hestitant at too. Luckily I didn't have to do it too often.
 

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unashamed perv
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I think forcing yourself to perform socially can help, but maybe you should do it in small stages, rather than doing something huge and terrifying. Instead of trying to cure your fear of heights by sky-diving, do it by climbing a little further up a ladder every day.

Even though you struggled with your presentation, it's a huge achievement that you did it. You didn't call in sick, you didn't give up half way through, you didn't freeze up completely. Give yourself a huge pat on the back, becaude you were very brave. Lots of people are nervous about giving presentations; sure, people probably noticed your nervousness, but they won't have thought it particularly unusual.
 

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I think forcing yourself to perform socially can help, but maybe you should do it in small stages, rather than doing something huge and terrifying. Instead of trying to cure your fear of heights by sky-diving, do it by climbing a little further up a ladder every day.
I agree with this approach vs forcing yourself to do things that you are not ready for. Ask yourself if this experience has helped improve your overall condition or was a step backwards. Experiences like this always reinforced the false idea that I could never be comfortable performing these type of activities. I would suggest creating a list of all of the things that you avoid doing or that make you anxious and rank then from the least to most anxiety provoking. Start at the lowest item and work your way up. Overtime, you should become comfortable trying some of the more difficult items. Toastmasters would be a good option only if you mainly have problems with public speaking and not social situations in general.
 

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breaking free
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Another thing that works in addition to exposure is changing the thoughts that make you nervous (i.e. everyone is thinking about how stupid I am). It is called cognitve therapy and there are plenty of books on how to do it.

The main point though, is keeping things in prespective. To use the previous example, a good thougt to put into the negative thought's place is that you don't know what people are thinking of you. They could actually like the presentation, or not be paying attention at all (i.e. they might be thinking about how stupid they looked while presenting).

The books can explain it a lot better than I can. Look for any books by David Burns. His books helped me so much and I think they would really help you too!

Good luck on the exposure thing. I know you can overcome this :)
 

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I try to think how everyone else is too nervous about their own presentation to really pay attention to mine.

The last one I gave I convinced myself that I wanted to do it. I told myself that if there is one thing I want to do in life, it is to give that speech. I made myself believe that I wouldn't be whole without doing it. I was then let down one day when we didn't get around to it :)

But I eventually gave it, and I loved the feeling of looking at the audience and not freaking out due to my "manufactured confidence". In fact, I made it a point to look out at their faces just because I imagined how my favorite authors must feel when they are at book readings and such.

That "manufactured confidence" is beginning to turn into real confidence; making me look forward to my next presentation so that I may grow a little stronger in letting my voice be heard.
 

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I had SA because of negative remarks from my peers since the age of 6.

But a decade later presentations in class changed all that because people absolutely can't distrupt my presentations or everyone will get really pissed.

So I used the ability to gain professional influence as a countermeasure against SA. And it works perfectly. I don't like to socialise when it's time to be serious - sometimes it's a waste of time especially where projects have time constraints.

And that's how I realised the cure to my SA - public speaking and presentations. If anyone wants to give me negative criticism they can first deal with the topic at hand in mature discussion. And that's what I enjoy most of all in human communication - discussion without judgment.
 
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