I play guitar and I used to have a terrible problem with stage fright. Below are strategies I used to turn stage fright into excitement.
Courage is doing what needs to be done even though you are afraid.
The word courage comes from the French word coeur meaning heart. When I think about courage this way, I think of it as putting my heart and soul into the task at hand.
The metaphorical heart is the seat of emotions. We have emotions and will have intense emotional reactions to those thing that are important to us. Emotions grant significance. Could you imagine being indifferent to the birth of your best friend’s child? Or being apathetic on your wedding day?
Actors welcome performance anxiety, because without it, their performance is flat. Emotions give you energy. Not only does the word emotion have the word motion in it, it is derived from the Latin word for move. There is a lot of power available in fear.
How do you tap into the power in fear? You change your relationship to it. First of all, suppressing an emotion can actually make it worse. Have you tried to suppress a laugh? Have you ever started blushing and tried to make it stop? You are better off toembrace your fear, to encourage it and give your self permission to have it.You are more relaxed when you aren’t fighting it.
Second, when you are afraid, your entire experience can be one of fear. This because you are identifying as fear. You will actually say, “I am afraid.” as if who you are is fear. The next time you feel afraid, say to yourself, “I am not my fear. I am a human being whohas fear.” This helps you to get some distance from the fear and to put it into perspective. You can create even more distance by thinking of it as a part of you that has fear.
Thoughts affect emotions
Notice what you are thinking while a part of you has fear. Are these thoughts helpful? Are you expecting a catastrophe? Suppose for a moment that the worst happened, what would be the consequences? How bad are these consequences? How do you feel when you think about them?
How likely is it that the worst will happen? What is a more realistic expectation? Think about the new expectation. How do you feel when you think about it?
When music teacher, Eloise Ristad, gives a workshop she will ask a musician after a vigorous warm-up how they feel. They say something like excited or energized. She then asks what they are experiencing in their bodies. They respond with words like heart-palpitations and a rapid pulse. Then she has them imagine performing. When they report their feelings, they will say something like nervous. She then asks what they are experiencing in their bodies. They will respond with words like heart-palpitations and a rapid pulse.
Think about that for a moment. Excitement and nervousness have the same bodily sensations. So what is different between excitement and nervousness? It is which name we give to it! It is what we tell ourselves about it!
After reading about Eloise Ristad’s exercise with her pupils, I started applying it to my stage fright. When I caught myself feeling nervous, I would say, “No. I am getting psyched.” Every time, I felt nervous, I would say it again. I may have said it 15 times before going on stage, but it worked!
Confident body language:
Stand still with your weight balanced on each leg. Notice how you feel.
Move your feet wider apart. Notice how you feel. Find a distance that is comfortable and helps you to feel confident.
Take up space. When sitting, rest your arm on the back of the chair next to you. Notice how you feel. Confident body language is all about taking up space. Hook you thumb under your belt like a cowboy. Notice how policemen and cowboys sit and stand.
Google confident body language for more ideas.
I used to have very little self-confidence. Then I found a tape by Carol Erickson and Tom Condon called Natural Self-Confidence. After listening to it for a while, I mentioned to my boss that I used to lack self-confidence. He exclaimed, “You? Who would go toe to toe with anyone in the company including the chief engineer used to lack self-confidence?”
My mom listened to it for only a week and gained enough confidence to report her principal for malfeasance.
If you are interested in this recording, it is It is available here:
Anxiety is another matter entirely. My recommendation is to see a psychotherapist who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Here is a link to a web site for finding a therapist in your area:
If you want to go it alone, here is a link to a workbook:
©2016 Stephen L. Martin
Painting: Personage and Moon by Joán Miró