Stage fright: The performers paradox

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Maybe this sounds familiar: you have a strong urge to get out there, share your art in front of an audience. But when you’re about to do so, you’d rather die that very moment than climb on stage and do your thing…

I call this the performers paradox. All performing artists have experienced something similar, at least once in their life. I very well remember a specific performance as a solo-singer when I just turned 14. Well prepared and confident, I felt that nothing could spoil my gig. Until I entered the stage and sat down at the piano. Then, something bizarre happened to me for the first time: Sweaty palms, dry mouth, shaky hands, racing heart … ”why exactly again is it that I want to do this?” I asked myself, and kind of blacked out.

As a kid, I’ve played gigs before. So why did stage fright hit me so sudden? Being 14, my ego was in full function mode. I was fully aware of my environment and judgement by others. At that age, you think that public failure is about the worst thing that can ever happen to you. Hence, my stage fright was born.

First of all, I want to stretch out that stage fright is completely normal. It’s human behaviour to care about what other people think of you. Especially for performers, who can be quite sensitive beings and very critical towards themselves. And yet, acknowledging this is a major taboo. No one likes to show stage fright or talk about it, and it’s not even a topic at music tuition!

So what can you do? If you’re looking for help on the subject, you can indeed find some well-meant tricks and advices. ‘Know your material’, for instance. Well, not really an epiphany. I’m afraid of being judged, so it goes without saying that I will prepare myself meticulously and try to make a mindblowing impression. And I know that this won’t steady my nerves.

I think it’s time to be more open and accepting about stage fright. Yes, it’s inconvenient, but likely to happen anyway. Rather than trying to ignore or overcome your fears, try to befriend them. Your body is telling you something with those sweaty palms! So start listening, and feel some empathy for yourself.

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