I often psych myself out before important meetings or presentations and then underperform. How can I stop? A.R. New York, NY
Well the good news is that you realize that it’s completely within your control to change this habit. Usually psyching yourself out is related to a fear—for instance, that you’re not a good presenter—and the result ends up being a self-fulfilling prophecy. While it may not feel like it, it’s good to have this fear because it indicates that conquering this fear is important to your growth.
Focus on what’s controllable. Self-talk is a critical part of how you see yourself and it directly influences how others see you. If you fear you’re going to underperform in meetings and constantly tell yourself so, you will. Likewise, if you repeatedly tell yourself you’re prepared, confident, and a good presenter, then that is how you will behave and show up. You can’t control other people but you can control your thoughts and behavior. Positive self-talk creates more positive outcomes.
Pay attention to your internal chatter. When you hear yourself talking yourself out of success with negative self-talk, STOP! Remind yourself that you were invited to present because you’re the expert on the topic, that you are a valued member of your team, and that your input is necessary for the project to be a success. Remember this is just a habit and one that you can replace. You must be your own advocate and champion in order for others to see you as valuable.
It takes time to build a new habit. According to psychology researcher Phillippa Lally of University College London, it takes more than 2 months (on average) before a new behavior becomes automatic—66 days, to be exact. And how long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances, so be sure to manage your expectations.