A Few Thoughts on Performance Anxiety

Published on 04/01/16

Stage fright or performance anxiety is the anxiety, fear that may be aroused in an individual by the requirement to perform in front of an audience.

1. Considering the possibility of visible failure at a task, resulting in embarrassment.
2. Feeling a need to do well to avoid failure.
3. Feeling uncertain about whether one can do well. Uncertainty plays a major role in experiencing many forms of anxiety. It could be helpful to keep in mind that one cannot control others’ reactions or judgments, but only one’s own performance.
4. Focusing on behavior and appearance.

An important component of performance anxiety is an acute awareness of one’s own behavior and/or appearance. When experiencing performance anxiety, one focuses one’s attention on the visible appearance of the performance. A possible way of reducing performance anxiety would be to increase one’s awareness of others, without considering them as judges. An attitude of service to others (focusing on helping or serving the audience, instead of oneself), can help one to shift out of performance anxiety.

One possible solution to performance anxiety could be that of reducing the significance of the other person(s). While experiencing performance anxiety, we often invest the others with imagined power, especially in their ability to affect us through their evaluation of our performance. Ways to reduce this imagined power is to increase the sense of one’s own power, to perceive the vulnerability of others and to accept oneself.

Another possible solution to performance anxiety would be to eliminate the imagination of negative possibilities. A negative outcome is always possible, but that does not justify worrying about it before it occurs. Focusing one’s attention on the present, rather than the future, is much more productive. A way to do this is monitoring our own performance.

A third solution to performance anxiety is holding the performance in perspective by seeing its outcome as insignificant in relation to the totality of one’s life. By realizing that nothing catastrophic is likely to occur, the need to avoid failure may decrease and switch to a more positive goal. An example of a positive goal would be to provide others with pleasure. Furthermore, it is helpful to focus on the process, the moment-to-moment experience, rather than the results of a performance. Additionally, it is important to concentrate on the enjoyable aspect of the process.

There are many ideas on how to improve the effects of stage fright. One would be as simple as being prepared. According to Lybi Ma with Psychology Today, “Being prepared is your first line of attack. You should be anxious if you haven’t done your homework” (Ma).