Worry is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind.
If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.
No one is immune
Everyone has some anxiety about some thing. Anxiety is just a part of normal, everyday life. It can be a useful emotion in helping you to cope with particularly stressful situations. And, at other times, anxiety can be so out of control that it interferes with your ability to function normally in stressful situations, even if the stress is only a product of our own imagination.
There will always be reasons in life to feel anxious. No age is immune. Children feel it in school before a test. Even infants feel it when they are separated from their mothers. Adults have plenty of opportunities to feel anxious whether it is related to work, finances, romance, or just from being self-conscious.
Sometimes anxiety comes because people have to do things they are afraid of doing. We talked a bit about this in yesterday’s post, but one of the most common anxiety-producing experiences is related to public speaking. Many people fear being in front of the public, either as a speaker or just as someone being singled out or noticed in a crowd.
Do you have a fear of speaking in public or performing on a stage? If so, you may have some issues with a type of performance anxiety.
Signs and symptoms
Performance anxiety may be an issue for you if the following ring true.
- You are overly concerned about looking foolish in front of other people and being laughed at
- You worry that people can see how nervous you are
- You experience anxiety far in advance of an event simply from anticipating your fears will run rampant
- You feel immediate, intense and sometimes paralyzing fear upon learning that you will need to perform in public
- You use every and any device to get out of public performances or have gone so far as to not show up if you couldn’t get out of it
- You have avoided/ missed out on opportunities because of your fear of being in the public spotlight
Performance anxiety is usually all in the mind. After all, not everyone fears going on stage, and there is usually no inherent danger in doing so. The fear comes from the imagined dangers. Dangerous thoughts like feeling that you are not smart enough or good enough to avoid looking ridiculous. So, since the danger is manufactured in your mind, the most important step in working through your performance anxiety is to change your way of thinking.
How do I change my thinking?
1. Self Assessment
- Get to know yourself, both as a person and as a performer
- Specifically identify the problem thoughts that are holding you hostage and ramping up your anxiety
2. Exposure and Preparation
- Find opportunities for limited performance exposure, but not to the point your anxiety kicks in
- Practice, practice, practice your speech or performance
- Tape it and watch yourself , listen to yourself.
- Practice until you have it down pat, but not memorized. Know your stuff!
- Always be totally prepared before giving your performance so that you will feel confident with and about the material
- Learn some relaxation techniques and practice them right before your performance
3. The Performance
- Visualize the audience as friends and family who would only wish you well
- Don’t think of yourself. This is not about you!
- Think of the audience
- Stay calm and enjoy yourself
4. After the Performance
- Don’t spend a lot of time criticizing yourself, no matter the outcome
- Congratulate yourself for doing your best
- Reward yourself for making progress
Train yourself to change your thoughts and instead of worrying about how badly people will think of your performance, and instead, imagine that they are thinking good things about you. Imagine yourself as self confident and thoroughly prepared and capable of completing the performance.
As you change your thinking, you will notice that your performance anxiety will start to slip away.