It happens. To me. Probably to you. And it also happens to very successful people who spend lots of time on stage. Last night Neil Gaiman tweeted:
It made me think of all the times I have had stage fright. Sometimes it’s a little fluttering feeling. Sometimes it’s waves of nausea. Sometimes it is a terrible voice in my head that tells me I am an untalented attention seeker who is wasting people’s time.
That voice is the worst.
It got to a point a few years ago where I would become severely depressed just before every performance. It wasn’t the fluttery, slightly anxious but excited feeling. It wasn’t even the gut wrenching nausea. It was just the voice of doom telling me I sucked. Sucked. SUCKED. And that I should probably just die. For the good of humanity.
Pretty much exactly the opposite of what should be going through one’s mind before performing.
So I made a little meditation for myself. I find a quiet space. Close my eyes. I breathe. I tell myself I can feel all the anxiety, fear, self-loathing later on. Don’t try to stop it or quell it because those feelings are like weeds and will come back stronger. So I just put those feelings to the side. I remember that when I was feeling better about things I put myself on a path that led me to this place where I am about to get on a stage. And that at this moment it really doesn’t matter how I feel because now my time belongs to my audience. They believe in me, and they trust me. So I should trust them.
It helps me to take that moment. To take the fear and shame and whatever else and just leave them there for later. It helps me to think about the audience and what I can do for them instead of being locked in my own little cycle of misery. After the show those negative feelings never come back. They seem to only exist to try to stop me, once I’ve done the thing they lose interest.
And this meditation is helping now because I have been extremely anxious about releasing my first single next week along the Kickstarter for the album. Doing things in public always induces these feelings. So I just remember to:
- Keep following the path that a happier, healthier you put you on.
- Know that everyone – no matter how famous or successful – can get stage fright. Or cold feet. Or doubts.
- Put the negative feelings aside for later instead of trying to stop them now.
- This moment isn’t about you, it’s about your audience. Trust them.
I often wonder what things other performers do to get over that awkward lump of fright that happens. I also wonder what the actual benefit is of this kind of fear. I spend a lot of time wondering about things…