You’ve dreamt of this moment a thousand times.
What it would feel like to step on stage and look into the audience to see all those excited faces staring back at you. You’ve thought about what it would feel like to hear them sing your lyrics back to you, to see them swaying along to the music.
But when you open your eyes, the reality is all but the magic you hoped for. In fact, when you actually step on stage, you’re kind of terrified. Sweaty palms, stomach in knots, heart threatening to beat right out of your chest..and you realize—you’re nervous. Like, crazy nervous. Every fear and doubt you’ve ever had about yourself is flooding your mind right now and you’re freaking out.
Stage fright, believe it or not, affects more musicians than you might think. In fact, most musicians will feel some kind of healthy anxiety before taking the stage, but for others, it can feel almost paralyzing, keeping them from doing the performances that they not only want to do but need to do to expand their career.
And while a healthy amount of fear is a good sign that you actually care about what you’re doing, you also probably would like to take the stage and actually enjoy it instead of wanting to run as far away as possible. So, here are a few ways you can fight back and start loving the stage.
Reframe how you think about fear
Believe it or not, fear and excitement are actually rooted in the same emotions, and they create the same response in our bodies.
Think about it. If you’re excited, what do you feel? Heart races, palms sweat, stomach in knots. And when you’re afraid? Heart races, palms sweat, stomach in knots.
It’s the same thing. Our body responds the same exact way to both things. The only difference is the story we tell ourselves as to why it’s happening.
Now I’m not saying if you’re in an actual dangerous situation you should try to trick yourself that it’s exciting (although many adrenaline junkies do just that) but rather, when our bodies begin to feel that nagging doubt that precedes a freakout and we’re not actually in danger, try to reframe it.
In this case, when you get ready to step on stage, instead of thinking “this is terrifying, what if I suck, they’re all going to laugh at me” think “this is exciting! I get to do what I love in front of a paying audience, I get to have fun and hang out with my friends, this is going to be awesome!” Go a step further and actually say it out loud, too. I know, it might feel silly, but it increases the effectiveness times 10.
It can feel a little weird, and even a little forced at first, but as someone who has tried this firsthand when nervous, I can tell you, it really does work, and the more you do it, the more you train your mind to view this as an exciting opportunity instead of a scary one.
Develop a Pre-Show and Post-Show Routine
In my opinion, a lot of these fears stem from the unknown and the general lack of control around them. If you can develop a consistent, calming routine pre-show to get you in the right mindset, as well as a post-show routine to celebrate your success, then you’re on the right track.
Think about what’s going to keep you the most calm and make you the happiest, and implement it. For instance, maybe it’s meditation or maybe it’s that you spend the afternoon before the show alone binging TV shows. Maybe you blast your favorite song and dance around to get the nerves out (I’m a big fan of that one). Develop a routine that works for YOU.
Then, create a post-show reward. I’m big on rewarding ourselves for the tough things we’ve done so if this were me, I might say “after this show, you’re going to treat yourself to an ice cream sundae” or “after this show, you get to sleep in tomorrow and wake up as late as you want.” Having something to look forward to and recognizing yourself for a job well done is incredibly important.
Practice makes perfect
The more prepared you are, the less anxious you feel. It’s just a fact. So if you’re feeling anxious about getting on stage, one of the steps you can take is to simply practice more.
Practice your instrument, practice as a band, practice the type of banter you’ll have from the stage, and practice how you’ll move. I am certain the more prepared you feel, and the more you put that into practice, the more confident you’ll feel.
Ultimately, you have to get out there and put all of this good advice to use. You can overthink it until you’re blue in the face (although, that’s what got you here) but at some point you have to get out there, get back on the stage, and put all of this to practice.
The only way to combat stage fright is to go out there over and over again, see that nothing horrific is happening (or that if your worst fears happen they weren’t actually that bad), and keep going.
This is the same way I’ve approached every obstacle I’ve come up against and I can tell you it really does work. For instance, I used to hate phone calls. I still don’t love them, but I no longer turn into a ball of nerves and give myself headaches every time someone suggests one.
They used to cause me SO much anxiety. So, I forced myself to get on the phone a LOT. I actually would suggest a call when an artist got in touch about working together, or someone wanted to connect. I forced myself to work through the discomfort. And now? It’s totally second nature.
Remember, this is your moment to shine on stage—so own it!
Angela Mastrogiacomo is the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR. She loves baked goods, a good book, and hanging with her dog Sawyer.