Overcoming Nerves

Corey Sleap

December 10, 2013

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Whether it’s shooting a wedding, speaking in public or having to send a client their final products, being nervous is a perfectly natural feeling. Although we hate them, and some of us find them massively crippling, nerves are actually very useful. They sharpen the mind, get the adrenaline pumping and really help you to focus. However if you let them they can take over and really get the better of you.

These days I do a lot of public speaking, but in school it was the thing I dreaded more than anything else. If I ever had to stand up and give any kind of presentation in class I wouldn’t be able to sleep the night before and I’d do anything I possibly could to get out of it.

When I was first asked to speak in public as Rock n Roll Bride I was similarly terrified. In fact I’m still utterly crapping it before I have to do it now, but I’ve learnt a few things that have helped me get better at it. I now think back to that first ever talk I had to do (for the British Journal of Photography no less!) and I cringe so much about how bad I was. But you know what, you can only get better each time to do something right?!

Practice makes… better

So I totally stole this line from Paul Jarvis’ new book, Everything I Know,
which I’ve been reading recently (it really is ace by the way). “Perfection is a myth, so practice can never make perfect”, he writes, “In fact, all that striving for perfection can actually lead you away from launching anything. The path to perfection makes it almost impossible to get your work out the door, because nothing will ever be perfect. Focus instead on great enough to launch and perfect enough for your audience to enjoy.”

Contrary to the cliché, practice does not make perfect. There is no such thing as perfect. But what it does do is makes you better. With each and every try you are getting closer and closer to being better, good even. The more you practice something, the less intimidating it becomes, and the better you get at it. Simple.

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Ask for feedback

Before you go to do the thing you’re nervous about, show it to someone who’s opinion you trust and ask for some feedback. Maybe you have a friend in the industry who wouldn’t mind looking over some of your work or you need to do a practice run of your speech in front of your partner.

Getting someone else’s opinion on whether something is ‘good’ or not, and maybe even a few tips on how you can improve, will massively boost your confidence.

Don’t imagine everybody naked

Seriously, just don’t. If anything, depending on your audience, it could be quite an alarming mental picture! Whatever it is you’re nervous about – speaking in public, shooting your first wedding, sending that pitch into a magazine or blog – just remember that the people at the other end are only human too.

Also realise that IT IS JUST SPEAKING / SHOOTING / EMAILING. You do this everyday. The actual action you have to take is not difficult, it is just your mind that is making it seem that way.

Also realise that the worst thing someone can do is not enjoy what you have to offer, and that reaction is completely out of your control. All you can control is how you’re going to go about doing the very best job you can.

The other thing to realise, if its public speaking or performing in some way, is that the people watching you are on your side. They’ve booked you or paid you for your services. They’re not going to be sitting there giving you daggers and judging everything you say or do. They want you to do a good job too.

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Focus on how you’ll feel AFTER you’ve done it

Finally, instead of stressing about the actual thing you have to do and all the things that could go wrong, focus on how you’ll feel after you’ve done it. Elated? Proud? Excited? Let these feelings and that energy drive you as you prepare for the event instead of the nerves.

Dude, you’ve got this. You are awesome at what you do and you’re going to go out there and SMASH it.