Have You Hugged Your Performance Anxiety Today?

It was the night before.  I just lay there in bed. I couldn’t sleep. I was breathing funny, my heart was pounding, and my thoughts were…well, noisy.  Some of the thoughts that went racing through my head were “I need to sleep.  I need to just calm down and get to sleep.  Tomorrow will be here soon enough.”

I bet you thought I was describing the night before an important performance, right?  Nope, I was recalling the night before my much anticipated wedding day.  I was so excited!   Isn’t it funny though, how the excitement I was describing sounded exactly like anxiety–performance anxiety?  That is the curious thing about this thing we call performance anxiety or the ‘jitters’ or ‘butterflies’.  We have learned to interpret these feelings as, “I’m not ready!” or “Something must be wrong with me.” or “This is awful.”  However, as you can see from the previous example, when we have very similar feelings in a different circumstance or in a different context,  we interpret these same feelings as excitement—not anxiety.

I would imagine that when you decided to become a musician or when you decided to pursue performing more seriously, you chose to do so  because you loved the thrill or the excitement of performance, but somewhere along the way you began to view that excitement as anxiety.  As you learned more about your craft, your playing or singing or more about performing, the excitement started to dull and anxiety took hold.  This can happen for many of us when we put too much pressure on ourselves to perform perfectly, or when we care too much about what others think.  All of a sudden, we aren’t performing because we love it or because it thrills us.  We are performing to impress or to prove something to others or to ourselves.  Before we know it, our mindsets or beliefs about performing have more to do with protecting ourselves than with sharing ourselves in our performances.

Today, I am asking you to reconsider this view and to consider instead, your ability to embrace the pre-performance butterflies as a sign that you are ready to perform—thus, the title of this post:  Have You Hugged Your Performance Anxiety Today?  This title was my humorous attempt to get your attention and help you realize that your brain, your thinking–your thoughts–are more powerful than you think.

The most powerful tool you have to work with is your mind. THE most important technique you need doesn’t have anything to do with your instrument, your playing,  your singing, or what you practiced in your last rehearsal. The most important technique or skill you possess is your ability to keep yourself calm and focused in the face of doubt and fear so you can trust your preparation and perform freely and easily.

Take a second or even a third look at how you interpret the feelings you have prior to performance.  Before your next performance pay attention to the thoughts and feelings you have.  At the first twinge of ‘nerves’, stop and think…what if, just what IF these feelings are your body’s way of saying, “I’m ready!”?  What if those butterflies indicate that the excitement you used to feel about performing is still down there waiting for you to recognize it?

This is not to say that you may have some issues having to do with your mindset, the limiting beliefs you hold, and the doubts that arise that you may want and need to work on, but that’s another article.  However,  if you would like to work with someone on issues such as these, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Just remember,  embracing your butterflies is an important step in a great pre-performance routine to help you perform your best when it really counts.

I would really like to know your thoughts. Please leave me a comment.


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  1. Dr. Diana Allan says:

    Let me know your thoughts…