Your heart pounds, palms sweat, muscles tighten, stomach flutters, knees wobble, and voice cracks. Your hands and feet go cold and start to shake, as your breathing stops and mouth goes dry. Butterflies turn into nausea and diarrhea as your brain fogs and vision narrows and blurs.
And that’s not all. Your sense of time accelerates out of control. Your arms, hands, and fingers feel disconnected from each other and your instrument feels like a stranger. Disoriented and in sensory overload, you are consumed by feelings of failure and incompetence. Hijacked by forces beyond your control, all you can do is clench your teeth and go along for a horrific ride that feels like an eternity. You want to curl into the fetal position and never play again.
By the way, performance anxiety does not rear its ugly head only at the moment one takes the stage. The fear of getting stage fright may be even worse… tormenting us with debilitating ruminations that can sicken us for minutes, hours, days, weeks, and even months before the performance ever begins. In some ways, the fear of getting stage fright is more horrible than the stage fright itself.
And to make matters worse, performance anxiety does more than hurt your performance. Performance anxiety is not also take its toll on our feelings of self-worth, embarrassment, shame, humiliation.
THIS is NOT why you signed up to play music. It is tragic indeed for something you love so dearly, to be a source of such agony. So, what can we do about it?