The Psychology of Nervousness
Years ago, it was another Friday night out and someone challenged me to sing a song at Karaoke. Despite my better nature, I got up there and chose a song that I was familiar with. Then the nerves kicked in. This wasn’t your garden-variety nerve reaction, but an earthquake of nerves that started in my right foot and cascaded embarrassingly up to my knee. While I read words from the screen and did my best to sing out the lyric, my leg started to shake. It shook so badly, in fact, that it felt like some foreign entity had taken over my body and I was helpless to stop the violent arching movements. I’m sure my friends noticed, but were polite enough to keep this oddity to themselves once I got back to the table.
It’s not surprising that public speaking and social phobias rank as the #1 fear for most people. It far outweighs other top list phobias like death at #5, and loneliness, weighing in at #7.
For most of us who have chosen to do the impossible by stepping onto a stage to deliver what is in our hearts, here are a few tips and suggestions to help relieve your own shaky-leg-syndrome before you get out there to perform.
WHAT’S MY INTENTION - I can’t say enough about the importance of intention. Connect to the reason why you’ve chosen to sing, speak or perform in front of others. Is it for self-improvement purposes? to connect to your dream? To challenge yourself? Let that reason be your North Star. Psychologically, it is not possible to experience joy AND fear simultaneously. So psych yourself out. Develop a mantra like, “My songs will be heard around the world” or tape a quote to your bathroom mirror that says, “I feel strong and am blessed to be doing the music I love”. Stay connected to that feeling of intention and you will find that the smaller feeling of fear will lessen over time.
PERFORM AS MUCH AS YOU CAN – Even though you will probably be a little (or a lot) nervous prior to a performance, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. When there are long times in between performances, you will find the nerves returning all over again, so keep up a busy events schedule if you can.
PREPARE - You have got to know your stuff. If you are guessing that you don’t have to fully prepare because it will work itself out when you are up on stage - you are probably wrong. Good performers make it look easy and when we watch somebody who is great, we think it should be easy for us too. Little do we know, that they have worked, and worked, and worked at their craft, so that it looks effortless. Check every nook and cranny of your song, your speech and your performance. Practice it over and over again until it feels like you’ve put on a second skin. If things do go a little hey-wire out there, you will default to your preparedness, calming your nerves in the moment
VISUALIZE – Use the power of creative visualization to your benefit. Studies show that your brain doesn’t know the difference between active imagination and something happening in the real world. SEE what clothes you have chosen to wear for the event, SEE the audience clapping as you walk up to the mic, and FEEL how good it feels to nail that high note and walk away with a job well done. Start the visualization process as much as a week before your performance and be as detailed as you can.
REST – One day before the event - rest. Resting actually prepares the body, mind and soul for the task at hand. You should have already done the heavy lifting of preparation and visualization, so rest your body, have some fun and eat a good meal with friends.