In this blog I would like to share something from a chapter in my book: Take charge of your life – before anyone else does. (The book is currently in the process of being translated to English.) This is a chapter on the many faces of stage fright. An important topic to address and understand.
Stage fright is an expression and a feeling many people are well familiar with. It’s not easy to admit to having stage fright, or fear of not performing well enough, but everyone has it sooner or later in some form. None of us want to admit that we are anxious or afraid because then we feel we aren’t as good as others. We’re always comparing ourselves to others, and that’s the basis for these fears.
We grow up with comparisons. We are compared to siblings and others our age. This builds up in the subconscious part of our mind and later appears in our behavior in some way. It’s interesting to see how this kind of fear can totally paralyze us sometimes.
We want to do the best we can, and we want others to see that we master whatever it is that we’re doing. We have our own expectations about performing well, as well as what we think others expect of us. The importance of performing well permeates our entire society. We are supposed to be both kind and smart, and negative consequences may result if we are not good enough. At school we are judged with grades as to our behavior and how well or poorly we perform in our studies. We fear the red marks on our papers after the teacher has seen them, because that tells us that we are not good enough.
We are under pressure at home, at school and at work. We fear being judged. We also recall how we ourselves have laughed at others when they haven’t done something well enough, so we know that the same thing can happen to us.
I had to deal with an even deeper level of my own performance anxiety when I was to stand in front of a TV camera. All eyes and expectations were on me. Many thoughts flew through my mind the first time: Can I do this, will I get any results, what if I ruin everything, and all kinds of dizzy thoughts. It felt good to be able to go within and remove another layer of stage fright so I could focus on the tasks at hand.
I smile at myself when I think back to a time when I had children in school and attended meetings for parents. The teacher welcomed us and said that each person could introduce themselves. We only needed to say our name and the name of our child. I didn’t hear a single name. I only saw lips moving and couldn’t feel anything except my heart pounding. When it was my turn I managed to say my name and the name of my child. Afterwards I was exhausted, so eventually I found many excuses to send the child’s father to meetings at school. I smile because today I can talk where and when I want to, and I can talk a lot if I get a chance to.
We live in a society that emphasizes performance in every way. We have TV shows like Come dine with me, where people are judged by others as to how well they perform. We even get rated with stars according to how well others believe we dress. We are constantly compared to others. Is it any wonder that we get stage fright?
To cope with this pressure and stress we turn to things that help us to relax, perhaps a drink or a pill. As we know, this creates great destruction at many levels.
At an early age we learn to put on various “masks” in different situations in order to cope with the pressure. A spouse mask, a friend mask, a job mask, etc. We are prompted to do this from a subconscious level. We put on various masks and remove ourselves more and more from who we really are.
If you were just yourself, with no masks, then fear about performance wouldn’t be an issue. You would just be the best that you can be, and would know that this was good enough. You should not compare yourself to others. You are yourself, and you are unique!
You have your abilities and talents that are meant to be used. You have your purpose in life, and no one can replace you. Sometimes I share my inner image of the world as a puzzle, to remind people of the value of each of us. It doesn’t matter if you are a king or a homeless person, all the pieces of the puzzle are necessary to complete it.
We experience stage fright in different settings. It is always a negative feeling that is important to address seriously, so that we can actually remove it and feel better and not have to hide behind “white” lies.
In addition to the excerpt, I would like to give you a tip for an exercise that may help.
Sit down, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Feel that you are relaxing. When you are relaxed, think that the part of you that has stage fright is right in front of you.
Then you can talk to that part, and make him/her feel safer with an inspiring and supportive conversation. An additional tip: When you have finished talking, you can imagine that you take yourself into your heart, and feel a good feeling. When you feel a good feeling, you can open your eyes and continue your day. (If you have attended a course, use The Creative Corner for a pep talk.)
By prioritizing a few minutes each day for this exercise, you will have invested in a future with less pressure