Self-Distancing to Master Your Anxiety (from Presentations to Dating)
Anxiety levels are up in most people during this difficult time. We could all do with a confidence boost and that’s where the technique that everyone from Beyoncé to NBA players use to increase their performance is going to help.
Let’s face it dating can be scary for most people. You want to make a great impression. You worry about what your date will think of you. You really want to find an amazing partner. You’re meeting a new person for the first time. The same goes for giving presentations especially in front of a group of new people in a meeting room or these days on Zoom.
This is where self-distancing is here to help.
So what is self-distancing exactly?
Self-distancing is the ability to see yourself from an outside perspective or from a different perspective to usual. Research (from the University of Michigan and others) has shown that self-distancing helps people to control and manage their emotions more effectively including anxiety. It also leads to better more confident performances.
Seeing yourself from an outside perspective
There are a number of techniques to create self-distance but the key is to use them as a mental preparation even before you take part in whatever activity you need to perform well at. Research has shown that when you use the following techniques to mentally prepare then you’ll be calmer and have more emotional control when you’re actually in the situation you’ve prepared for.
The first technique you can do to achieve this is to visualise yourself from an outside perspective when you’re planning your presentation or date. Instead of imagining from inside yourself imagine as if you are a fly on the wall observing the room in which you are having your date or giving your presentation. Visualise what you will look like as you speak and talk with confidence. This helps create emotional distance and gives you a wider perspective.
The second technique is to refer to yourself and your emotions in the third person perspective for example “Rachel feels…” when you are planning any future task. Instead of “I feel…” or “I will feel…” This simple change in perspective helps to create emotional distance and combined with the first visualisation technique will boost your confidence when you are actually giving the presentation or on the date.
You can also use these techniques while you are actually giving the presentation or on the date to give yourself a boost. But there’s also another way to boost you in the moment and that’s by unleashing your alter ego.
Your Alter Ego
Utilising an alter ego is one of the best ways to master your emotions. An alter ego is an imagined version of yourself, or a character, that you use to manage your emotions. It’s a part that you can play in situations you choose that can actually help you to grow the abilities you want such as being more calm under pressure.
Stars such as Beyoncé have utilised an alter ego to up their game. She created her “Sasha Fierce” alter ego to boost her confidence in performances and who could argue that it didn’t work!?!
In order to make yourself an alter ego you’ll either want to use a combination of people you admire or an imagining of your ideal self. Ideally your alter ego will have the attributes you are looking to build so for example if you are anxious your alter ego will be confident and self-assured, or if you are shy your alter ego will be extroverted and a fluent orator. Whatever it is you’re trying to achieve give your alter ego the characteristics to do it.
Just like the other techniques it will help you to prepare in advance before taking on whatever situation you need to perform well in, whether that’s owning a date, or making a presentation. Imagine how your alter ego would act in that situation as if you’re a fly on the wall looking at your alter ego. If it’s a date your alter ego might be smiling, making eye contact, talking calm and effortlessly, and sitting upright after making a confident entrance where you kissed your date on the cheek and went to sit down at your table.
Repeat this mental rehearsal as much as you need to feel confident in the situation you’re walking into. If you get stuck ask yourself what your alter ego would do; how they would move, what they would say, how they would act. Then go take the world.
With the art of self-distancing in your emotional toolkit you’ll boost your confidence, learn how to master your emotions, and start being the person you always dreamed of being.