When I was a singer decades ago — performing opera roles, musicals, and concertizing wide ranges of classical vocal repertoire — “performance anxiety” (i.e. “stage fright”) was common among several of my performing-artist friends.
At times, they would tell me that their stage fright was becoming a matter of course almost every time they presented themselves before an audience.
In the decade when I was in my 20’s, and in the midst of various stages of my performing arts training, distractions like stage fright just didn’t exist for me.
I was busy studying music in college, composing in grad school, then honing my vocalism at Cleveland Institute of Music, while incessantly singing in public for any audience within earshot (big or small –“cultured”, or not so much).
While I was living and learning in an especially supportive world, there were precious few external distractions. I felt so self-assured in expressing myself — Right up until the day when I had a powerful awakening:
I had boldly ventured from a decade of stringent tutelage into the “real” world of professional music-making. From that first moment when I passionately envisioned myself being paid handsomely to provide “Artistry” (a subjective “product” intangible to many), I could not stop my own visceral “performance anxiety” from infusing this, my newborn experience, with self-doubt.
Out of concern for my friends and myself, I sought to learn all about “performance anxiety”. Subsequent research showed me that “stage fright” is often experienced as an unnerving apprehension vaguely sensed before or during one’s appearance in front of an audience.
It can affect self-conscious people, each in different ways. For example, it can beset even veteran professionals: musicians, dancers, politicians, athletes, public speakers — Anyone.
Symptoms are observable in specific ways that affect the human capacities:
- Physically: Sweating, altered heart rate, headache, upset stomach, chills or nausea
- Mentally: Confusion, disorientation, memory lapses, or avoidance of failure and ridicule
- Emotionally: An urge to escape from the situation, distress or agitation
Well, that sort of scientific research on stage fright is all well and good, and with regard to each of the elements of Soul depicted, we could tell each other stories galore!
And yet I, for one, can see larger implications attending the words, “stage fright” — More than a performer’s personal unease over being seen, judged, devalued, or discredited.
Even that term lends itself to wordsmithery. For example, the “Stage of Life” sounds grand in scope with vast and varied terrain. Then…
The Stages of One’s Life on Earth have ages and stages amidst the Eternal Present Moment.
So, what was all that sudden self-doubting tribulation in me really about? Self-doubt amidst performance anxiety may include a number of emotional questions and cognizant perceptions — Perhaps some like these:
- My assessment of what would be expected of me: Was it realistic, or not so much?
- My new, assertive employer’s original opinion of me … Was it in fact overestimated?
- Is my listless self-doubt giving me frets because I underestimate my capacities?
- Am I racked with insecurity over the possibility that I will be rejected, then dejected?
Living is filled full with both stage fright and glorious flights of Destiny in the making! Hence, we find that — if we relax and allow it — every stage of “performance anxiety” makes way for an awesome performance of SourceEnergy powerfully manifested and artfully expressed.
So May We Let the Divine Performance of Life Begin & Never End