I spend a lot of time working with people who have stage fright, both in singing and in speaking. And there are SO many misunderstandings and unhelpful reactions when it comes to stage fright, that we must start to break the stigma. So I am breaking down the three most common misunderstandings to teach you how to handle things differently!

Misunderstanding Number One:

“Stage fright is something to be ashamed of!”

Have you ever heard any of these when you’ve opened up about your struggles to sing or speak in front of someone? Either from the depths of your own mind or from someone else?

“I am so stupid, why can’t I do this?”, 

“That person has done it, what’s the problem with you?” 

“YOU have stage fright? HA!”

“As if you have stage fright - what a loser!” 

“I am so awful at everything it’s no wonder I can’t do it right”

“Everyone is going to see how bad I am at performing”

If or when you do hear these comments, you automatically feel ashamed of your fear. And it happens so often that we treat it as normal - that stage fright is something that shouldn’t happen. So ultimately we shame ourselves, and let others shame us into feeling worse about ourselves. What a spiral to go down! 

Well, let me tell you - stage fright is a perfectly natural reaction to a stressful situation. Your body and mind are clever enough to notice that the performance or presentation is potentially ‘dangerous’ for you (socially rather than physically) and so it sparks off your inner protection mechanism - your fight or flight reaction. This same fight or flight mechanism has historically and genetically allowed your ancestors to survive….your genetic code is primed ready to support you and help you to survive! 

So let’s break the stigma.

If you are shaming yourself, when stage fright hits, allow yourself to notice it but don’t engage with it. Don’t let it rouse your shame dialogue (you know, the one where that little voice in your mind tells you that you are stupid and ridiculous) and if it does, just catch it and say “Thanks very much for your help, but I can handle this” and allow that shame dialogue to fall back into the background

If you notice it in someone else, show them this tool. Support them with kindness and without judgement until they too can stop the shame dialogue themselves. Sometimes it takes a village!

Misunderstanding Number Two: 

“Stage fright can be cured by practising more!”

This misconception is so common in the clients I work with - they have been taught to think that practice is the only way to cope with stage fright. Do you find yourself using any of these phrases, either from your own mind or from someone else?

“I just need to practise one more time, even though I know it inside out”

“It’s not good enough yet, I must practice more”

“Why can’t you sing this in front of other people? You clearly don’t know it yet. Go away and practice”

“You got that part wrong, do it again until you can’t get it wrong!”

“You haven’t practised enough, go and do it again!”

These comments are so common for singers who struggle with stage fright, and teachers who don't know how to handle the problem.

Take a moment to consider just how much shame and distrust is implied in these phrases. That it’s implied you don’t work hard enough, or you don’t trust your own hard work to support you. The same goes if it comes from a person you trust, or one that is in a position of power, telling you that you haven’t practised enough is like adding fuel to a fire. That shame and distrust burns more intensely because now your negative beliefs have been reinforced by someone whose opinion you value. Any of this sound familiar?

So let’s break the stigma.

If you are telling yourself (or someone else!) that you need to practice more, first examine your reasons why. If you can be confidently sure that you know what you are doing, then chances are you are well prepared. You now need to dial back on the practising - just keep it ticking over - and stop trying to micromanage it. 

Instead, focus on other things that you need for this performance or presentation. That could be practical things like clothes and transport, or it might be a calming technique you can use before the event itself, like a breathing exercise or an epic dance session to work off the excess adrenaline before you do your thing. Always ask yourself ‘what else do I need’, instead of just practising more.

Misunderstanding Number Three:

“You have to push past the fear to perform confidently!”

I can almost guarantee that at some point in your life and or career, you’ve either said something like this to yourself, or someone else has said it to you:

“Fake it till you make it!”

“You have to perform to get over the fear!”

“I need to just go out and do it then I will feel confident”

“You just need to suck it up!”

“Once you get the first one out the way you’ll be fine!”

Right? I think we’ve all heard variations of these when we’ve admitted that we’ve struggled with confidence or been afraid of a situation. Whilst I agree that taking action is the antidote to fear, sometimes holding your breath and pushing past the fear isn’t the answer. It’s like trying to get past a roadblock only to encounter more problems ahead - sometimes you have to take a slightly longer route to get to your final destination. 

I understand phrases like this can help you to be brave and take that step - but at what cost? Dismissing fears such as stage fright can cause them to be temporarily repressed, but the more often and the harder you work to avoid the fear and anxiety, the more it’s going to come back to bite you. And trust me, it will come back and bite you!

So let’s break the stigma.

When you tell yourself that you just need to suck it up or ignore your fears, take a moment to examine why. Why do you need to repress the stage fright you’re feeling? And OK, it might be worth it in the short term to get you through a performance, but then you need to revisit it. Otherwise, the next time you are in a similar situation, your body will react the same way, potentially even more intensely and so the cycle continues.

Consider ways in which you can face these fears head-on, without repressing or pushing them away, or ignoring what you are feeling completely. That might be journaling, or doing a breathwork exercise, allowing the feelings to stay with you and then flow out of you. Cultivating awareness could mean working with a coach on a 1:1 basis until you get to where you can handle it yourself. Whichever path you choose, I want you to work WITH your stage fright instead of AGAINST it. It will be worth it in the long run!

And always remember, I am here to help. So send me an email or drop me a DM on Instagram and let’s chat.

Let’s break the stigma together!