Overcome Fear, Reach a Calm State, and Make Your Pitch with Ingela Onstad

Most professionals, like lawyers, are high-functioning, head-focused people. You'll find them confident with their knowledge and intellect in their expertise. However, as we know, there are different stages in the professional world where we have to perform. Even the pros can experience stage fright — like when making a pitch. To overcome it and maintain a sense of calm, you'd have to engage in deep internal work.

In this episode, high-performance coach and founder of Courageous Artistry, Ingela Onstad, joins us to discuss being calm and finding our confidence. She demonstrates practical techniques for achieving  calmness , such as journaling, introspection, or simply recognizing the emotional experiences in our bodies. She shares strategies and exercises in the three essential cognitive, physical, and emotional aspects. Ingela affirms that becoming an effective professional comes down to a holistic process.

This episode will help you become a confident, effective professional who stands out.

Here are three reasons why you should listen to this episode

  1. Find out why attorneys lose confidence when it comes to selling.
  2. Learn strategies to overcome the fear of selling and pitching.
  3. Discover why learning emotional regulation skills is key to becoming an effective leader.


Episode Highlights

Ingela’s Background

  • Ingela’s family is from the Upper Midwest, and she has a lot of Scandinavian heritage. Her name is Swedish or Norwegian.
  • Ingela started her career as a professional classical singer. She later landed in the world of opera.

Ingela: "As it is for most artists, you don't always have a plan B. You have to invest all of your time in plan A. Which is becoming a professional because there's not really time or energy for anything else."

  • After a decade of being a full-time professional singer in Europe, she returned to New Mexico.
  • Only in her early 30s, she had to figure out what she wanted to do with the rest of her life.
  • She knew she had to find a career that would make her feel a sense of purpose. Her husband suggested she become a therapist.

Becoming a High-Performance Coach

  • She enrolled in a master's program and became a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC).
  • For a while, she kept her therapy and music career separate. However, performer friends and colleagues frequently contacted her for help in relaxing their bodies and dealing with stage fright in order to help them reach a state of calmness before a performance.
  • Ingela pivoted into coaching — a much more goal-oriented and future-focused profession. She can reach a broader range of people.

Ingela: "[With coaching], you are really focusing on helping individuals.  But I like to say, reach the final 5 to 10% that they are striving for at the very, very top of their growth trajectory."

  • Aside from performers, she also started working with attorneys. Ingela talks about the anxiety the pandemic caused in people who were once more confident at work.
  • As a high-performance coach, she helps people feel calm and manage their anxiety, voice, and body language. To perform how they want to appear in front of others.

Moshe: "When our tone changes, when our body language changes, the other person's able to feel it and read it. And we're setting ourselves up for failure or lack of success. Or not achieving the highest possible success by sending that signal in that moment."

Why We Lose the Ability to be Confident When Pitching

  • Most attorneys are confident. This confidence is sometimes based on their skill, acumen, pedigree, and connections.
  • Selling is a different brand of confidence. Only a few law schools teach about how to build a successful law firm and how to sell.
  • High-functioning people, like most attorneys, struggle with a lack of confidence. That happens when they get to different performing stages.
  • People generally feel vulnerable and can’t reach a calm state when asking someone for money. Few of us enjoy this feeling. 
  • It's a transition from the mental to the emotional realm. The emotional realm depends on the background we have in exploring emotions.

Where to Start in Getting Past the Fear of Selling

  • Start with basic biology and learn about your body and how we evolved as humans.
  • An essential piece of the puzzle is a deeper insight. Nothing has gone wrong when you're suddenly feeling vulnerable. It's rooted in our biology.
  • Getting liked and accepted into the greater group would have been a matter of survival in ancient times. We can't remove it from our system.

Ingela: "There's an aspect to our biology that is like an ancient alarm system. And this ancient alarm system gets tripped in certain situations. And we don't have full control over that."

#1: Examine the Cognitive Aspect

  • Start with the cognitive aspect of dealing with emotions, such as anxiety or intrusive thoughts.

Ingela: "Our brain is essentially hardwired for negativity. This is a real boon for attorneys. It's shown that people who can be highly pessimistic and skeptical can be very successful in professions. Such as law because they can see things coming down the pipeline, they can forestall bad events."

  • Positive affirmations rarely work. There should be a balance between positive, supportive self-talk and realism.
  • It's about knowing our brains better than we used to. Once you know the different types of cognitive distortions, you can notice and address them once they come up.
  • The cognitive approach varies from person-to-person. Some people resonate with mantras, while others might prefer using strategies to calm the body.
  • Cognitive reframing involves approaching the sales conversation with wanting to help people.

Ingela: "We cannot walk on a stage and assume that every single person in the audience is going to like us."

Scarcity and Survival

  • Part of the fear we all feel is the scarcity mentality we're all born with.
  • We're born clamoring for as many resources as we can get our hands on to ensure our survival.

Ingela: "It's not that we're greedy or selfish. It's that we're hardwired to survive, and we will do anything we can to survive."

  • Remind yourself that opportunities and clients are abundant. That way, you won't take it hard when somebody doesn't want to work with you.

#2: Physical Strategies on How to Be Calm 

  • Learn the physical aspects of anxiety and how it manifests in your body.
  • Specific breathing exercises have biologically been proven to get us out of the fight-or-flight state. Somatic approaches involve the body and the physical self.
  • Ingela says that most attorneys tend to be head-focused, disembodied people. Meanwhile, performers tend to have more connection to their bodies.
  • Head-focused people tend to ignore the messages their body is sending. They tend to believe that they should be able to fix everything with their brain alone.
  • Tune in to the full episode to try out the hissing breath exercise. Learn how to calm the body through breathing exercises!

#3: Approach the Emotional Aspect

  • People need psychoeducation around emotions. Our culture tells us we should be able to control our emotions and that only some emotions are allowed. 
  • Emotions are a rainbow. The goal is not to banish anything but to recognize it. We all have more comfortable and less comfortable emotional states. 
  • Much of this emotional work is physical because emotions reside in the body.
  • It's all about recognizing emotions. Learning how they manifest in our lived and physical experiences and figuring out how to cope.
  • Some strategies for processing emotions are journaling, introspection, and mindfulness.

Becoming an Effective Leader

  • All humans have mirror neurons. These are neurological cells in the body whose job is to mirror others.
  • We tend to copy the emotional state of people near us. It's a process that connects us as human beings.
  • Leaders must learn better emotional regulation skills and spread them to their teams.
  • Learning emotional regulation skills helps our brain process and work better in a literal sense.

Ingela’s Parting Piece of Wisdom

  • Highly intelligent people tend to forget that how they feel inside their bodies speaks volumes. That is felt by those who are close to them.
  • In theory, someone might be interested in your message or services. However, they can read as incongruence if your energy is tense and stressed. 
  • Take your mental and emotional well-being seriously. Recognize that to sell effectively. You have to think of yourself as a whole.

About Ingela

Ingela Onstad is a High Performance Coach for professionals in the public eye. She helps clients transform their anxiety about public speaking and presenting into confident and authentic performances that stand out. With a background as a professional opera singer as well as a licensed therapist, she assists clients with tools taken from psychology and the entertainment industry to build skills that help clients shine.

If you wish to get in touch with Ingela, you may visit her website, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Enjoyed this Episode?

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Post a review and share it! If you enjoyed tuning in, then leave us a review. You can also share this with your friends and family so that they can gain more insights about starting and expanding their respective careers. Everyone feels a little stage fright when they’re about to make a pitch. These techniques can help you reach a calm state and find your confidence.

Have any questions? You can contact me through Facebook and LinkedIn. To request a show topic, recommend a guest, or ask a question for the show, please send an email to [email protected].


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