I've cured my performance anxiety.
Updated: Jul 2, 2018
Recently I chose to jump out of a perfectly good plane at 14,000 feet. I exercised my free will and chose to do this, to pay extra to jump five thousand more feet, in order to free fall for more seconds than a regular jump.
As I was signing my life away, I geared up with some familiarly sweaty palms. My skin started to tingle and my stomach churned. These were familiar feelings. I had jumped out of this plane before - but in another way. I went through this exact set of physiological responses during my Conservatorium degree performing in front of my peers and teachers.
I learned an astounding lesson after I jumped out of that plane. You are either a jumper, or a non-jumper. There is no grey area, no in-between. You either land on your feet, jump for joy and plan your next jump, or never even consider jumping in the first place. It's really that black-and-white.
Is it also so, then, when you stand on stage, that you are either a performer or a non-performer? Many of us wouldn't say we are natural performers, yet we battle forth and struggle to continue to perform, because of our love and passion for music. Some performances feel easier than others, some days our artistic practice seems more natural than others, and some days we crumple in a heap of self-doubt.
I’ve identified the following energies within myself that hinder my ability:
—> I care so much about my performance that I over-think it
—> I worry too much about what others will think of my performance
—> The physiological manifestation of anxiety in my body is interpreted as extreme fear and I act accordingly
These energies should really look like this:
—> I care about every moment in my performance and my presence shines through in each note
—> I want the audience to enjoy my performance and I perform to them
—> The physiological manifestation of anxiety in my body is interpreted as excitement and it adds energy to my performance
And so here it is - my cure. To harness my love and passion for music.
I choose now to perform music I love so much that it transports me to another place and time when I perform it, so that I don’t even notice where I am, let alone who might be watching and judging.
I had this experience recently where, I found myself booked at the last minute for a fundraiser to perform my original songs with viola and loop pedal. It was the perfect storm of anxiety-producing circumstances: I was unwell, the gig was high profile, and the venue intimate yet also intimidating. I went through the usual ritualistic rigmarole of over-preparing, knowing exactly what I was going to do, and when, in order to try and cope. As I approached the stage, I started to relax. I was excited to play my own music which I love so much, and thrilled that I had in front of me 100 people who had never heard anything like what I was about to play. I was excited for them, for their anticipation and potential amazement. Flashback to the crippling anxiety of my performance degree where I was expected to flawlessly perform solo Bach and it was like a mental battle-zone every time (as a side note, I believe that those who successfully perform this are making that music ‘their own’ - through some process of natural internalisation their performance feels to them like music of their own).
What do you think?
Amy is a musician, composer and educator living in Australia. Her new songwriting project ‘Amy Viola’ is a uniquely crafted, soulful and raw account of her life as a gypsy musician told amidst sweet vocals and looped layers of deep, rich viola. Find out more at www.amyviola.com