In our last Get Over Stage Fright post, we talked about the importance of laughter as a tool for managing performance anxiety. Today we’ll discuss another coping mechanism: identifying your fears. Anxiety typically stems from not knowing. It’s a vague, amorphous fear that something terrible will happen without your knowing exactly what. While identifying your fears may not completely eradicate your stage fright, your anxieties will probably feel a little less terrifying. “I am afraid I’ll mix up the words on the second verse” or “I’m afraid my shaky legs will make my voice feel a little less steady” are much more manageable and less threatening than “I am terrified everything will fall apart.”
A great first step in getting over stage fright is to simply identify what your fears are (once you’re well rehearsed, since there’s no substitute for preparation). Make a list. It can be anything from, “I don’t know what the accompaniment will sound like,” to “I never know what to do with my hands once I’m on stage,” to “I’m worried I’ll forget the words.” Try to be as specific as possible. “I don’t know what to do with my left hand when my right hand is holding the microphone” is better than “I’m scared I’ll look awkward up there.”
Once you have your list, go through the items and work through as many of them as you can. If you’re concerned about what your left hand is doing, work out some simple movements for your left hand. If you’re worried about that one verse you always forget the lyrics to, drill the verse separately from the rest of your song. If you’re nervous that your heart will race and make it harder to control your breathing, lightly jog in place while you sing so that you can get used to what it feels like to sing that way. Of course you can’t control for everything, because that’s not how performing (or life, for that matter, works), but the more tangible you make your fears, the less performing will feel like the undefined boogeyman under your bed. If you look closely, it’s just a pile of old clothes.