A Spotlight on Stage Fright

We cannot be too quick to assume that the concept of stage fright disappeared when live performances did - if anything, the unfamiliar virtual format may have kicked our anxiety into an even further gear. 

Why do so many of us suffer from stage fright? We know logically that it simply doesn’t make sense - yet oftentimes we are still ruled by these invisible fears. It’s been said that stage fright is made up of varying degrees of fear when it comes to “Humiliation, Preparation, Physical Appearance, Rigid Rules, Personality Traits, Audience Interest, Unfamiliar Role, Mistakes, and Negative Results.”

Did you know that some performers are so stricken with stage fright that they must meet with doctors to attempt to curb the affliction. “To treat stage fright, some doctors prescribe "beta blocker" medications that close off the receptors responsible for our natural "fight or flight" response. Though these medications have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, some anxiety specialists such as Hilts favor a more natural approach.”

GRAMMY notes "In my experience, pharmaceuticals that block fear also take a big chunk out of joy," she says. Hilts' preferred method is to extensively interview clients to get to the root of their performance fear, then apply counseling intervention techniques to help break the connection between the client's past trauma and their current behavior. She says there are simple things performers can do to help ensure a more anxiety-free performance experience, including frequent rehearsals, and adds that there's nothing wrong with performers confessing their vulnerability onstage.

How can we combat this when it comes upon us as we are about to go on stage? With no preparation what-so-ever, you find yourself in a shock? "A lot of times you can release emotional discomfort by just cracking a joke about being nervous," she says. "All the people in the audience are going to connect with you for having the courage to do something that would personally scare the pants off of them." Give yourself a break and remember that life is for living. Don’t lose sight of what made you fall for performing in the first place. 

Many true greats have been carrying around the burden of stage fright for their entire careers. Sometimes it occurs because of a negatively received performance, a random slip up, a general fear and more. Big Speak speaks on "Barbra Streisand - According to the Huffington Post, the singer was struck by a severe bout of stage fright after forgetting the lyrics to a song while performing in New York—and refused to perform live again for nearly three decades. Even today, she is only able to perform if her every word is provided by a teleprompter (even her between-song banter). For those without a teleprompter, be sure to bring a copy of your speech to the podium, or at least a clear, large-print sheet outlining the points you want to cover. Whether you’re gripped with fear or have simply gone off on a tangent, this preparatory measure will allow you to easily get back on track."

When it comes to virtual performance, all of these factors still ring true with even more added on top. Now, not only do you have all of your previous concerns, in addition you must now have a proper backdrop, as well as worry about the quality of your sonic output. This helps kick anxiety right into gear in the worst way!

Ultimately, it’s crucial that you figure out what makes you “tick” and uncover the ways in which you can avoid stress triggers that unfold into extreme anxiety. We must not forget that most fears will only remain as that - because they are so far-fetched that they will be rare to find in reality. So, find solace in the fact that most of these things will never happen. Enjoy the ride and take your power back from fears that only exist in your mind.