Before I dive into this post, I just want to celebrate that this was my first time writing for another blog! CD baby invited me to write this article for them. You should definitely check their blog out. It's packed full of support and advice from all kinds of musicians and industry professionals. Here's the link to this blog on their site and then you can connect with them from there: http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/2014/04/how-to-work-with-stage-fright/
Okay, let’s be honest, most of us have felt that nervous energy coursing through us as we step onstage. Some of us have been completely overwhelmed by it. Our hands shake, our mouth and throat suddenly dry up and our mind goes blank, we forget that line of lyrics, skip the bridge, and totally screw up that solo…and walk off the stage thinking “I know I could have done better if I hadn’t felt so nervous!”
As a child and teenager, I always thought nerves were kind of fun – natural actually. Before every show, I would feel those butterflies in my stomach and know “This is it. This is my time. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for! This is my moment to share my gift and shine!”
But then, somewhere around age 20, I started having what we call “Stage fright” – fear so strong it interfered with my performance. I would stand onstage and wish to God the show would get itself over with and SOON – before I completely lose it! I felt completely disconnected from the music, from the audience and I hated every minute. But afterwards, offstage, I was heartbroken, wishing to have another chance, longing to perform. So I would schedule another show, look forward to it for weeks, and then onstage again, I’d be consumed by fear, struggle through it and wait for it to all to be over. I knew I loved performing – I was even told I had “great stage presence.” I wanted to share my music, but I had lost my sense of how to love it in the moment. Not to mention that playing my best was impossible.
Being frightened onstage is completely natural. Next to intimacy with another, the stage is the most vulnerable place to be… especially when we are performing our original music. When we resist our fear, it grows stronger. When we try to work on it, get over it, it grows stronger. But, when we learn to work with our fear, we can have the freedom we long for and feel confident, powerful and connected every time we are onstage. You don’t have to become a better performer to get over stage fright. You don’t have to work on your fear. You don’t have to have less fear! You simply have to know how to let yourself be vulnerable, and how to use the music and your audience to help you let go, be present, and be the performer you were born to be. I call this “learning to receive.”
Receiving means “to allow; to take into oneself something offered.”
When you perform, the audience is offering you their attention. Stage fright is a simple resisting of this attention, or a need to prove oneself worthy of it. When we both trust the gift we offer with our music and allow ourselves to take in the attention of the audience, stage fright literally disappears. Often, the reaction to stage fright is to try harder. We become aggressive – we push with our voice, we play louder, we force ourselves to look at people, or we close our eyes and pretend no one is there. What happens when we try to get over our fear, or get through it and “fake it till you make it” is that the audience feels our aggression and our inauthenticity and we then lose their attention. But how we can truly move beyond our fear is to learn to receive.
Nerves are simply the subtle movement of energy in the body and perhaps some emotion. Stage fright happens when these sensations and emotions are fed by disempowering thoughts like “I’m not good enough. I’m not ready. What if they don’t like my me or my music?” To curb these thoughts, we have to let go of our need to wow, please, prove and be amazing. We can do this by softening instead of pushing: working with the energy of receiving. We are amazing, just as we are. When we trust this and stay open to receiving, we will attract the fans who truly love and appreciate exactly what we offer.
Practice allowing yourself to be seen, heard, and witnessed. When you let people in, and receive the gift of their attention, then the offering of your music becomes easy and stage fright is obsolete. Trust me, this really works. I have experienced it in myself and worked with dozens of performers. Next time you have a show, instead of having your focus and attention on playing to the audience, I want you to notice them watching and listening to you, and practice allowing them to witness you exactly how you are – with all your fear, all your wanting to be good, and all your imperfections. It may sound weird, but go try it. When you do this – when you receive – it becomes easier to feel vulnerable. There is internal power and strength in your connection to the audience that you can rely on and relax into. Your need to be liked becomes less important than true connection and self-expression. In this state of mind and experience, your fear evaporates and you are left free to express your true self and offer the gift of your music. When you receive, stage fright not only doesn’t exist, it is impossible.
Blessings my dears,