Have you ever been out of sync on your performance day. A blank verse is a poem written with a regular meter but unrhymed lines. We go blank like blank verse over prepared for a meeting or talk and mess it all. Dev in My workshop on Performance anxiety was curious to know why he goes blank at the moment. Dev starts forgetting the lines, or trembles on stage. Sometimes he has dropped the idea altogether and took a back foot. Some beliefs, I work with participants like Dev in the workshop are
1) Performance anxiety invariably arises from “must”. There is some must statement going in mind. These rigid beliefs about self, audience or perfection tend to increase the anxiety “I must perform well”. “The audience must like me” These beliefs in workshops are worked and takes time. So give up that must right from when you start preparing for the performance.
2) Musts don’t come alone, they are paired with awfulizing: must don’t solely contribute to this, they are complimented with awfulizing. “It would be terrible if the audience doesn’t like me” ” it will be dreadful if they hate me” Yes its would be bad and disappointing if people don’t like you but not awful.
3) Demanding acceptance by the audience: the demands usually don’t stop to self but also encircle the external factors like audience “I must be liked by the audience or else I am a total loser” “everyone in audience must listen carefully” “Even if one person walk out of my presentation that means the presentation is not good” All these demand on others are irrational and energy consuming. Remember ” You have present to an audience as they are, not as they should be ”
5) Self-rating & self-downing : These labels are descendent of beliefs above. We tend to travel with a scale. Like some people are born with silver spoon, many are born with a rating scale. They carry it everywhere and keep labeling themselves and others with rating scale. ” I must perform well or else I am no good” “If I don’t perform well I am just nothing.” Familiar with such self-talk. well, we label I am no good, vulnerable, incompetent, unlikable, unlovable etc. We connect our performance with these labels no one applauded after the performance means … means they didn’t applaud, Forgot to or many other better interpretations. Remember “Labels are for jars ”
6) Don’t take yourself so damn seriously. Frank Sulloway’s research suggests that the “personality” is a strategy to survive and “get out live” from your childhood. Each child in own ways develops certain characters and areas of attention called “winning ways”. In the same family, one child may be quiet and other may be outgoing but both have the same goal that is to make a niche in the family, community and to be prepared to survive. Anxiety regulates and signals the child of dangers of being alone, unattended or loss. This creates a “calculating self” which Doesn’t let you take things lightly. Remember ” you don’t have to use the same strategy you used when you were 5. Lighten up”
7) Anxiety about anxiety is the catch22. They think “If I am to perform it’s awful if I am nervous and I just can’t stand it” Well you can stand it. Many are and have already stood it. These meta-emotions are at times are left unattended by psychotherapists. When working on anxiety one has to first work on his or her meta-emotions like anxiety about anxiety.
Every point here needs a detailed post will try to write it. Until then if anxiety strikes you before going onstage give up a must and enter. Which of these beliefs do you think constrain your performance comment below.
“You can practically get over anxiey if you keep working, working, working, failing, failing, failing and not take yourself too damn seriously” Albert Ellis
Reference: 1)Performance Anxiety: A Workbook for Actors, Singers, Dancers, and Anyone Else Who Performs in Public By Eric Maisel
Himali Kelvekar, Student of English literature with a minor in communication, media and Psychology at christ university, Bangalore with a on-ground work experience in content writing ,editing,designing and public relations.
Sahil Takshak A student of Delhi University. Writing is my first love. Passionate about fitness, travelling, human psychology, cooking, politics, music, movies and books.