How to Overcome Stage Fright
I was backstage packing up the stuff in my dressing room.
A woman knocked on the door and said, "Can I ask you something?" I invited her in. She asked me how long I had been performing. I told her. Then she said, "What I'd like to know is -- when did you get over stage fright?"
(At moments like this, I wish my husband were standing behind me so he could let out a boisterous "HA!")
I said, "I'm pretty sure I haven't yet."
I told her that for the first whole year of performing, I was terrified every night I got onto a stage - even if the "stage" was made of shipping pallets and duct tape.
The only thing that changed was my ability to "filter" the fear.
Here's the thing.
If you're waiting to get over stage fright before you'll perform, do a speaking engagement, teach a workshop, or read your poetry, then you'll be waiting a VERY long time. Here's why:
Stage fright shrinks because of taking action.
Once you take action, you'll learn how to overcome your own brand of stage fright.
Nonetheless, here are nine tips to help you if you're feeling anxiety ridden about a particular show or event:
1. Give your fear a time-limit.
If your event is at 8pm, then say to yourself, "Self, you have until 4pm to be as whiney and miserable as you want. At 4pm, we're letting that go. Up 'til then, have at it."
This permission is liberating. Because you're giving yourself the gift of non-resistance, the stage fright has space to diffuse. The time-limit will show you the side of you that can take over and be confident. Slowly, that confident side will grow.
2. Don't have lots of to-do's on performance day. Go slow.
This works for me, but I can't do it at every show because of my travel schedule. If I have a particularly big show, I always allow the day to be about the show and little else.
3. Have lots of to-do's on the day of a show. Go fast.
Some of my friends find that the less they think about a show, the better. So they go through their routines or see a movie. They show up at the venue at the last possible minute.
4. Create a ritual.
Your rituals will come to you with time. I change guitar strings and play songs for a while. I also say a prayer before I walk onto stage. Even if I'm doing a small show, I get very clear that I want my ego to step aside.
5. Get in the audience.
Some of my friends love to wander around the audience and talk with people before they perform or speak. It relaxes them to just hang out and see that there are no monsters in the audience.
You will perform better if you've exercised that day. It will put your emotions in a better place. Creative types need to exercise regularly.
7. Get to the venue early.
When I toured with a ballet company, we always arrived at the theatre at noon on the day of the performance. The dancers had to rehearse and take a class. The crew had to set the stage. And I got to be in "theatre mode." Yes, I got nervous. But I felt like I "knew" the place by the time I got on stage. I used the time to just be in the theatre and feel the energy.
8. Be a rock star.
Seriously. What would it feel like if you were a rock star? Find that feeling of deep confidence that's in there. It's not an ego thing. It's about knowing that you ROCK. Get on stage with that confidence. (Sometimes this doesn't work. Sometimes you simply don't rock. So use this one with caution!)
9. Perform from the fear.
It's tempting to try and fight your anxiety, or figure out ways to blast through it. The only problem with "figuring out" is that performing is about interacting with the audience. It's about being totally in the moment. You can't approach it from your head.
So, if you don't feel like you have a handle on your fear, begin "softly." Don't try to "win them over." Don't try to be funny. (Because in certain moments - it becomes about the "trying" and not about the "funny.") You will find that you slowly ease your way into a confident place. Then you can find the energy you need to carry the rest of your time on stage.
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Rebecca, overcoming stage fright with Eric at an open mic night at Limeric Junction in Atlanta Neighborhood Virginia Highland.
Have a wonderful night,