Imagine yourself at Carnegie Hall in New York City. You are not there to attend a show.You are there to perform. As you stand backstage behind the curtain, you realize there will be thousands of people there to watch you perform.
Your heart starts to race, and your head gets foggy. You feel sweat start to bead in your palms, and you feel like you might vomit. You feel vulnerable, open and exposed.
All of these symptoms point to a fear than most people in the musical world have experienced at one point or another: Stage Fright.
In this article, I am going to talk to you about stage fright and how you can better prepare yourself so that in the future you can be more prepared, and the fear won’t be so intense.
The Science Behind Stage Fright
Before we can cure stage fright we need to ask: what exactly is stage fright?
Stage fright is a biological reaction we experience when our hypothalamus stimulates our pituitary gland. Your pituitary gland sends signals to your adrenal gland, the gland that secretes adrenaline. Adrenaline is what causes a fight or flight response, or a fear response. This is what makes us nervous, or afraid.
Research has shown that genetics also play a big role in stage fright. According to Lifehacker.com, Beatles member John Lennon was so nervous for every performance that he would vomit, despite performing hundreds of times.
Stage fright is an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are genetic, which would explain why some people experience stage fright more than others.
How to Cure Stage Fright
Now the question is: “How do I get rid of stage fright?”
The simple answer is: you can’t.
Wait! Before you stop reading, there are a few ways to make it better. Plus a surprisingly effective way to actually turn it into a positive.
Relax Your Body
Another way you can combat stage fright is to stretch and take a deep breath. This helps your muscles relax and you get more oxygen to your brain, which will help with the swimming head that you experience.
You can also try some Power Poses to trigger a more confident biological reaction and counter-balance any feelings of self-doubt. Learn more in this article or watch this fascinating video:
Dress For Confidence
You can also dress in a way that boosts your confidence. Dressing like you are a professional can help you feel like a professional. Ladies, wear heels if you can. Heels help give you a boost of confidence.
Alternatively, choose to wear comfortable clothes if the occasion allows, or wear a piece of clothing that reminds you of a reason to feel confident such as a previous successful performance you enjoyed.
Keep a Positive Outlook
Don’t let yourself think negative things. We all have a tendency to hear the “voice of self-doubt” particularly loudly before a challenging experience such as a concert. Thoughts of making mistakes or any past embarrassing moments can quickly snowball. Instead, turn your attention to the positive and keep your mind distracted from any negative thoughts which arise. Meditation practice might be required to help here!
Don’t think about what people will think of you. You are there performing for a purpose. You are there for more than yourself. Get past yourself, so you can fulfill your purpose.
How to Take Advantage of Stage Fright
If the tips above don’t help you to eliminate your stage fright, they should at least help make it manageable. Then, there is actually a clever trick you can use to turn what is normally a scary negative experience into a positive and beneficial one.
Instead of trying to calm yourself down, make your fear a source of excitement.
When I first joined the Musical U team, I struggled with social anxiety of all forms. I was nervous talking to people, especially strangers. I was very nervous singing in front of large groups of people as well. I read a discussion in the Musical U community about an article that encouraged people to “rebrand” their stage fright and call it excitement instead of trying to calm themselves down. After they did that, musicians were 30% more accurate. The response that happens with your brain when you are afraid is actually the same response that happens when you are excited.
I had to try this theory out!
I had a singing group audition about one week after I read the article, so I had the perfect opportunity to test this theory. When I stepped into the room on audition day, I was very nervous. This was one of the biggest auditions of my life thus far, and I was afraid I was going to mess it up. I remembered the article, and changed the way I thought about it. I was excited to get up there and sing, and for me, singing is about glorifying God. I was excited to sing and glorify Him. I wasn’t there to be nervous, I was there to succeed.
As it turned out I felt so confident that I didn’t struggle one bit with my harmony, which I usually struggled with quite a bit, and I got the opportunity to join the singing group for my college.
The theory worked!
How to overcome stage fright
Next time you are getting ready to perform, try each of the strategies above. Remember that you have the power to cure your stage fright.
It is in your head, so keep positive thoughts and repurpose nervous energy into excitement.
It is in your body too, so dress for peak performance and pay attention to your muscle relaxation and breathing.
I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes:
“Burst through the stage fright; Applause awaits!” -Anonymous
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