It Doesn’t Have to Take Years.
The singer and actress, Bette Midler, who has been performing for over 40 years, recently revealed that it had 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 confident in what you are doing. Hence the 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 having stage fright or not, doesn’t depend on talent and experience. 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 need to have the proper mental perspective about what stage fright is and isn’t and what causes it. 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 proper perspective.
Conquer Stage Fright Step 1: GET A NEW PERSPECTIVE
- This morning, I heard someone say, “Fear is all in your mind.” I thought, yes, I suppose so. But 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 position we take about the sensations we are experiencing, the less control they have over us. The same 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 not to be taken over by fear.
It also implies you should be able to simply snap your fingers, “change your mind,” and get over it. Saying fear is “all in your mind” also suggests that we are just making it up or crazy for feeling that way. That can set us against ourselves, setting us up for self-judgment and self-criticism, which is never good. It suggests that somehow we should be able just to stop doing that. But what if we can’t? All of those perspectives make the sensations more pervasive and more challenging 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 is, then we can consider 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 no longer identify 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 observers 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.)
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 is 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 yourself, prepare (not over-prepare), what to wear, what or who to have with you, etc., that help you.
- Physical strategies: perhaps it will help you keep moving before the performance begins, meditate, exercise, or do some Energy Work*. Find the physical calming techniques that work for YOU.
- Mental strategies: look for ways to regard your situation that you notice calm you. Cultivate those perspectives. Notice how you view your situation or what you tell yourself about it that increases your anxiety. Consciously counteract those thoughts.
- Psychological strategies: Our brain-triggered fears are often 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, it often 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. Energy Psychology methods pro-actively clear up the emotional charge lingering from past events, 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).
Finding the right perspective and using the right techniques will put you in the driver’s seat.