Take Your Eyes Off Yourself

If you’ve ever gotten up to make a speech, you likely know the nervousness and anxiety that comes in the moments before you actually start talking. In a speech I heard last week, Doreen pointed out the real problem of these nerves: when you’re nervous, you’re only focused on yourself. When all you’re thinking of is YOUR speech, it’s really hard to focus on the audience, the people you’re trying to help, encourage or entertain.

Leo Tolstoy illustrates the problem of self-focus (and the beauty of others-focus) poetically in his work, War & Peace, when Princess Mary starts reading a note from her close friend, Julie:

Having read thus far, Princess Mary sighed and glanced into the mirror which stood on her right. It reflected a weak, ungraceful figure and thin face. Her eyes, always sad, now looked with particular hopelessness at her reflection in the glass. “She flatters me,” thought the princess, turning away and continuing to read. But Julie did not flatter her friend, the princess’ eyes – large, deep and luminous (it seemed as if at times there radiated from them shafts of warm light) – were so beautiful that very often in spite of the plainness of her face they gave her an attraction more powerful than that of beauty. But the princess never saw the beautiful expression of her own eyes – the look they had when she was not thinking of herself. As with everyone, her face assumed a forced unnatural expression as soon as she looked in a glass. She went on reading…

In presenting, as in life, we’re at our best when we’re not pre-occupied with ourselves.

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