Face Your Performance Anxiety or Run?

In our recent discussions of performance anxiety we have talked about how to identify your fears in Performance Fear—Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire and how to understand our fears in The Key To Understanding Your Performance Anxiety.   The final step in dealing with your anxiety or fear is to take action and neutralize its ill effects.  It’s interesting how when many performers are confronted with fear, they become overwhelmed, the mind races, and they revert to a basic F.E.A.R. strategy:  Forget Everything And Run!  I don’t mean you actually run out of the performance or performing space.  Our running is manifest in the way we perform.  We run from risk—the risk of trusting our preparation, the risk of trusting our musical instincts, or the risk of trusting our imagination to take us to that expressive place where anything might happen.  You may leave that challenging ornament out of the return of the A section or decide not to take the high note at the end of a section.  You may just pull back and play less aggressively or even timidly in that difficult passage or decide to put a piece away after a dissatisfying performance.  We get stuck in the comfort of our own fear and forget to trust ourselves and our preparation.

As Alan S. Goldberg says in his 10 Steps to Mental Toughness and Peak Performance, “a funny thing happens when you move toward instead of away from your fears.  They begin to change right before your eyes.”   It sounds to me that our fears are kind of like performance bullies.  Do they hang out and want to steal your lunch money?  Well. . .no, but that fear does hang around in our minds and it expects that you’ll run and be too afraid to confront it.  However, when you allow yourself to get close to your fear by first, recognizing it and then facing it head on, you will begin to understand where your fear is coming from and your fear will start to lose its power.

“Fear can only have power over you if you continually avoid it.  It’s only by moving toward your fears that you can see the fallacies behind them.”  —Alan S. Goldberg

In order to neutralize your fears, get up and do the thing you fear most—again and again and again.  One way of moving toward your fears is to put yourself in the fearful situations more often.  Most performers can get very anxious auditioning.  Think about it—how often do you audition?  We fear it, yes, if our focus is on the outcome, but it is primarily because we don’t practice dealing with this particular situation enough.  If you want to be as relaxed and confident in auditions as you are when you are in practice or in other low-stakes situations, you need to run towards these types of situations.  You can do this by actually auditioning more.  You can also mentally see, hear, and feel yourself performing comfortably and calmly in front of the panel or behind that screen.  Your imagery practice can help you divide and conquer your fear of performing in auditions.

As we’ve discussed before, it is sometimes easy to misread fears.  Think about the singer who is standing on the Metropolitan Opera stage with 25 other hopeful semi-finalists performing for one of the 10 spots in the finals.  No pressure or fear here, right?  It might be easy to think thoughts like, “I don’t belong here,”  “What if I totally embarrass myself?” “What if I don’t go on?”  Although these thoughts might come to mind, you don’t have to go with them!  Thinking about fear this way will cause you to be distracted and intimidated.   Think different thoughts!  Reframe your fear!   Reframing or changing the meaning of the fear in a positive way will help you face your fear and enable you to trust yourself and your preparation.  Feeling fear does not have to mean that you are weak or unprepared for the challenge.  Fear can be the gateway to improvement.  Keep in mind that feeling fear can mean that you are “pushing your boundaries” and facing that fear will take away some of fear’s power.

As you get into the habit of facing your fears, you will begin to neutralize their powers and enhance your ability to remain calm and feel confident and energized to perform your best when it really counts.

If you haven’t already, please subscribe to my website by downloading the free mp3 program, Mental Strategies for Peak Performance in MusicAs a subscriber, you will get monthly tips about how to enhance your ability or your students’ ability to perform at peak levels.  Click HERE to subscribe.

I would love for you to leave a comment.  Click the SHARE button below to let me know how you face your fears!

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Goldberg, A. S.  (2005).  Sports slump busting:  10 steps to mental toughness and peak performance.  Coral Springs, FL:  Llumina Press.

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