How can I become more confident and less self-conscious when expressing myself in front of other people?
The questioner's philosophy
Suddenly I feel the brain sending some wrong messages and I feel a kind of stiffness when writing in the presence of others. I have never done a writing job, but now it has become important that my hands are steady while writing. I am medically fit and my blood pressure is normal. Tests show all OK.
Steps taken by me: Praying to relax daily in the morning; auto suggestions; meditation daily in the morning before the Lord from 4.a.m to 5.a.m; listening to relaxation cassettes as much as possible. Kindly guide me as to whether I am on the right track. I am determined to do everything you say.
So here I was, on a totally different track, following inner guidance and writing a book on personal development. Naturally, since I had never done anything like this before, I had doubts about my writing ability and about the wisdom of my commitment to this new direction.
Then one night at about 3am, when I was asleep, lying beside my girlfriend who had come to visit for the weekend, I had a vivid dream in full color - which was most unusual because I nearly always dream in black and white. In the dream I was watching Sai Baba talking to a crowd of people, when he came over to me. He pointed his finger towards me and said, "You're going to be an international writer." In the dream I replied, "Am I?" He said, "You will, you will," emphasizing the point with his finger. I replied, "It's amazing the power of the pen." Quick as a flash Sai Baba said, "The Power doesn't lie in the pen!" Then he turned and walked back to the crowd. (I later learned that such dreams are actually visitations by Him and are highly significant).
I awoke immediately with the dream fresh in my mind. I returned to writing my book with a new enthusiasm engendered by this dream. Eventually my book was written and published and I have become an international writer as Sai Baba predicted, and as this reply to you confirms, but I never forgot his words - "The Power does not lie in the pen."
So where does the power to write lie and how can we access it reliably, whenever we wish to express our Selves through writing?
After reflecting on Sai Baba's words I came to the conclusion that what he meant was that the power to write lies with God and that we are connected to God and to that power through our heart. We can write with the heart - not just with the mind. Writing must be an expression of inner guidance made visible on the page - the inner guidance that comes from God and which we access through the heart, which includes our feelings and intuitions. When we are completely tuned in to this way of writing, our words are truly spontaneous, we always write exactly what is needed, with an innate precision and a flow of meaning that is clear and free from confusion and error. By practicing this skill we can actually use writing as one of the vehicles in our life to connect us to the Divine!
"But how can I have this connection?" I hear you ask. You are praying, you are meditating, you are using affirmations and you are listening to relaxation cassettes, but are you taking this whole business of writing too seriously? Are you turning it into a serious business? Are you worried what people will think of your writing? Do you fear judgment and criticism?
The key word here is spontaneous. Writing needs to flow from a place of love and joy and fun. As soon as you begin to worry what others will think you block the flow. Consequently I suggest you have more fun writing. Begin by writing about fun things not connected with your work - family occasions, an evening out with friends, etc. If you have problems starting then just write gibberish - go with whatever is coming - and let it flow. It doesn't matter whether it makes sense or not - what you are looking for is a sense of flow and spontaneity in your writing.
Then when you master writing about family things, switch to writing about work related topics. Remember the sense of flow and what it felt like to write fun stuff. Put that same carefree spirit into work related writing. When you do your first piece of work related writing, do it with the intention that it is fun and that you will probably never use it. Remove all these expectations you have about the writing needing to be a certain standard, perfectly constructed, to be done by a certain time, etc. and enjoy the act of writing. Then when you are finished, read over your work and you will know whether you want to use it or to amend it or try again at a later date.
If you have a fear that your writing (or public speaking) will be judged by others, the cure is simple - refrain from judging yourself and others in life and work and in turn you will not fear judgment. The same is true of criticism. Appreciate and value your own work and the work of others and you will be confident that your own work will be appreciated and valued. To master this, learn to observe your mind - watch it as if you were watching a mind that belonged to someone else. Notice when your mind becomes judgmental or critical. By being aware of judgmental and critical thoughts every time they happen, you are able to end this tendency. Replace these critical and judgmental thoughts with love and appreciation of yourself and others and you will be on the right lines.
To assist with the spontaneity and authenticity of your writing, before you start ask God to write through you. Ask Him for the words and trust that they will be delivered as and when needed, exactly on time and appropriate to the moment, via inner guidance. With this kind of writing the power and words seem to "come in" from a place unknown and you adopt an essentially humble "listening position" of being a mere instrument and the means for this Power to express Itself. And since this Power is the Power of Love, there is always joy in the writing and a genuine surprise at what is written.
By letting go of expectations you have around your writing, calling on God (through your Higher Self) to give you the words, writing for fun initially to get the sense of flow going, and then gradually bringing in work related writing, which you do with that same sense of spontaneity and joy, you will gradually master the art of expressing yourself through writing.
The same advice applies to mastering the art of public speaking.
A final point in connection with your question - you write, "Kindly guide me if I am on the right track. I am determined to do everything you say." Please measure my words and guidance against your own inner sense of what is right and what will work for you. Do not do everything I say without first discerning its value and truth for YOU. I know that in India there is a tradition of blind adherence to "the master" but such untested devotion can be dangerous and allow you to be led astray and even exploited by people giving misguided advice. By all means refer to others for help and support but at the end of the day BE YOUR OWN GURU!
Expressing yourself creatively connects you directly with Divine Power, therefore learning to write in the manner I have suggested will help you be your own Guru!
Further Help and Resources
We have some very helpful articles in our Quick Coach service on Expressing Yourself Creatively. I suggest you select and read a few of them to give you insight into creative action.
A book that many people find helps them with creative writing is Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. This book uses writing as the foundation of self discovery and as a vehicle for exploring creativity.
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