The singer and actress, Bette Midler, who has been performing for over 40 years, revealed recently that it has taken her almost that long to conquer stage fright, but she finally has. Bette Midler?! But she’s so fabulous! How can she have any stage fright to conquer?
People usually think stage fright, or any performance anxiety, comes from not being good enough or not being certain of what you are doing. Hence the old adage practice, practice, practice. But how can that be, if Bette Midler could have stage fright for that long?
Does it just take the time to “get good enough” to free yourself from your fear and feel safe? I say a resounding “NO!”
Because talent and experience are not what stage fright is based on. There are plenty of people who have stage fright at all levels of accomplishment, and plenty of people who don’t.
To accelerate getting over your fear, you have to have the right mental perspective about what stage fright is, and isn’t, and where it actually comes from. That perspective will lead you to techniques that will make a real difference for you.
Here are several thoughts that might help you get to the right perspective.
Conquer Stage Fright Step 1: GET A NEW PERSPECTIVE
- Just this morning I heard someone say “Fear is all in your mind.” I thought, yes, I suppose so. But I think it’s even more helpful to think “Fear is all in your brain.”Why? What’s the difference? How could that help?Because the first is subjective and the second is objective. And the more objective we are about the sensations we are experience, the less control they have over us. This goes for any physical or emotional experience.Saying that fear is “all in your mind”, suggests that the problem is our mistaken belief, and that we have to change what we believe first, in order not to be taken over by fear. It also suggests you should be able to just “change your mind and get over it.”
Saying fear is all in the mind also suggests that we are just making it up or that we’re crazy for feeling that way. That can set us against ourselves with judgement and criticism, which is never good. It suggests that the solution is to somehow just stop doing that. But what if we can’t? All of those perspectives make the sensations more pervasive and harder to get a handle on.
But if we regard our fear as being in our brain, as just a “brain firing” if you will, which it actually is, then we can regard it with the same objectivity that we regard a cut in our finger, or a pain in our knee. It’s just that our brains are a little “closer to home.”
Conquer Stage Fright Step 2: BECOME THE OBSERVER
- Once we have that objectivity, at least intellectually, we are no longer identifying ourselves with the fear, but are simply experiencing a sensation: just like we don’t identify with a cut in our finger or a pain in our knee. We don’t say “I am this cut in my finger” or “I am a pain in my knee”.We are the observer of those sensations. We may not like them, but we are not them.
We can become the observer of the fear sensations that our brains are triggering. That gives us some wiggle room in our consciousness to regard them more objectively and not as having so much power over us. (The same is true of anger, grief, jealousy, etc., etc.)
Conquer Stage Fright Step 3: TEST AND OBSERVE WHAT WORKS FOR YOU
- Now that it’s You (and not your fear sensations) in the driver’s seat, you can start to find ways to calm those brain-triggered sensations. The specific combination of remedies that will do the trick are unique to each person. There are a million variations, but here are some categories to look at:
- Situational strategies: look for ways to arrange the space or yourself, prepare (not over-prepare), what to wear, what or who to have with you, etc. that help you.
- Physical strategies: maybe keep moving before the performance begins, or meditate, exercise or do some Energy Work*. Find the physical calming strategies that work for YOU.
- Mental strategies: look for ways to regard your situation that you NOTICE calm you down and cultivate those perspectives. Notice which ways to regard your situation make it worse and avoid them. This will be unique to you.
- Psychological strategies: very often our brain-triggered fears are rooted in past “learning” experiences, especially not so pleasant ones that involved being visible to others, or perhaps embarrassed or ashamed. When we take the emotional charge off of those old experiences, very often it clears up the triggered brain response in the present.
- Energy strategies*: this is my favorite and in my experience makes the most permanent difference in calming any emotional reaction.Energy Psychology techniques, TFT, EFT, etc. are based on the observation that when you strengthen your energy, you will simultaneously feel changes in your thoughts, feelings and body sensations. These methods can be used pro-actively to clear up the emotional charge left over from the past, calm present day upsets, and strengthen positive perspectives and feelings.
So, the bottom line? No, it doesn’t have to take decades to conquer stage fright, performance anxiety, test anxiety, fear of public speaking, etc. (or other emotional issues).
Getting the right perspective and finding the right techniques will put you in the driver’s seat.
Hope this helps. Marti.