What is stage fright? Why does it happen? and how can I fix it?
I want to open the curtains to the truth about stage fright. I myself have struggled with stage fright and anxiety in the past, and over the years I have searched for and learnt techniques to move beyond stage fright. Today, we are going to look at how the brain perceives stage fright, and what we can do about it.
My First Live Performance
I remember the first time I ever performed in front of an audience. I was so nervous I felt like I was going to throw up, and that was a week before I even got up on stage! I was 13 a the time, and my then guitar teacher had signed me up to the end of year performance. I was scared s#!tless!
I would be performing the Green Day song “Good Riddance (Time of your life)” with two other budding musicians, and a spanish style solo piece.
Standing at the side of the stage feeling my stomach slowly fold into my throat (good thing I wasn’t singing). With each step I took towards centre stage, my heart rate increased. I could feel my heart beating through my whole body. I was afraid that people would reject me or that they would think I suck. I felt that the more I was thinking about it all, the less I would remember how to play the songs.
Once I got into place on stage, my hands were sweaty, and my legs some how turned to rubber. I was anxious! It was like I was scared for my life. Which didn’t really make much sense… I wasn’t in any real danger… But my brain thought I was…
The Science Behind It
Our brains have formed to ensure that we avoid danger and possible threats. Check out this video to understand the parts of the brain that control stress, fear, anxiety and how those parts of the brain function or react to situations and sensory stimuli.
For me the worst part of performing was worrying about it. I didn’t know any of this at the time, but I decided to use my courage and push through. Which leads me to the part we have all been waiting for…
How Do I Overcome Stage Fright?
During the performance, I made a lot of mistakes! I had heard from other musicians something along the lines of, just keep playing and find your way back, 90% of people won’t even notice you made a mistake (Years later I would have an impromptu conversation/interview with a gigging guitarist in New Orleans, that really solidified the point).
After the performance had finished, I realised that it wasn’t so bad after all. The adrenalin was pumping, and I wanted to get up there and play more!
The next time I got on stage, the same thing happened and I was just as scared. But I knew this time that if I push through and just do it, I would be fine.
The fear of performance in many cases really just boils down to the fear of rejection. In the video below Jia Jiang will take you through his experiment of 100 Days of Rejection. This man literally put him self into situations for 100 days, where he was almost certain he would be rejected. His aim? Not to remove the fear of rejection, but to desensitize himself to it.
Along the way he found some pretty amazing results you would not have expected.
So now that you have a better understanding of how fear works, how its triggered and ways to move beyond it, what is your next step?
Tell me what your scariest experience has been with performing, or what is holding you back from taking the next step in your music career? Maybe it comes back to fear of success, fear of failure or fear of rejection, and you just didn’t realise it yet.
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