by Jacosa Ainu’u MSI music instructor
What do Lorde, Barbara Streisand, Rianna, Donny Osmond, Andrea Bocelli, Adele, Rod Stewart, and Renee Fleming all have in common, aside from being singers? They all suffer from stage fright and performance anxiety. In fact, Barbara Streisand’s fear of forgetting her lyrics kept her off the stage for years and, to this day, she will only perform with a teleprompter. So if stage fright is a struggle for you, you are in good company. One might ask why these singers keep torturing themselves? The antedote to such fear is simple: Stop performing. Clearly, however, there must be something about the experience that makes it worth going through such trauma. But the payoff really doesn’t matter, if you can’t get yourself out on that stage.
So, when you find yourself in the grips of fear, how do you overcome it? How do you center yourself enough to move forward with faith that everything will work out? Here are some tips you might find helpful:
1. Visualizations- Put simply, a visualization is when you mentally walk yourself through the details of a performance. Fear of the unknown can be cause for anxiety and, truly, there is no way to predict how a performance will go. However, visualizing the process of the performance can help to bring down anxiety as you work through all the possibilities.
2. Adequate Preparation- Whatever you can do to prepare yourself will also aid in bringing down your stress levels. Practice diligently, try performing in front of some trusted loved ones who are encouraging, memorize your material, go to the venue beforehand to do a walk-through and get comfortable on stage- anything that helps you feel better prepared will decrease anxiety.
3. Affirmations- Sometimes the record playing in our heads is a very negative one, and it plays over and over. Positive affirmations can do wonders, if you can be focused and present enough to use them. Tell yourself encouraging things about your abilities, your performance, the time you have put in practice, and how skilled you have become. Focus only on positives- NO negatives! Your emotions will react and help overcome those negative feelings and fears.
4. Have a Sense of Humor- Try not to put so much pressure on yourself. Adele made a mistake during one of her shows, apologized, and laughed it off. Every single person in your audience can relate to the idea of feeling pressure, and struggling under that pressure. Laughter is a good way to break the tension and give yourself a break in the process!
5. Exercise- Exercise, including (but not limited to) Yoga, can be a great stress-reliever. Exercise is proven to increase endorphins and helps us feel happier and more confident. Even a short walk can have immense benefits and help combat anxiety.
There is no one way to overcome stage fright, and you might find yourself feeling different in situations depending on the venue, the audience, the material you’re performing, etcetera.
Make sure you take the time you need to find what works for you and helps you feel encouraged and confident. As with all the superstars who continue to conquer their own stage fright, you can do the same, and experience the great feeling of a beautiful performance!