Heart starts beating loud. The blood rushes to my ears. My knees suddenly go weak and I feel a little dizzy. I suddenly have the urge to fart or burp. My throat suddenly feels parched as if I haven’t had water for days. There’s no way I’ll be able to sing like this.
Am I dying? The answer is, no. I’m just experiencing the symptoms of performance anxiety.
I have been a performer since the age of three. I spent most of my childhood on stage either in a professional theater or in my living room performing the plays my siblings and I made up for fun.
I spent my middle school and teenage years in community theater productions, going straight from school to rehearsal and couldn’t wait to be a part of the next show.
I spent four years in college where performing was my major. Performing in class was a daily thing and our finals consisted of performances for the public instead of the standard test or essay.
So, why, after all these years of practice, do I still get that nervous, I might shit my pants and pass out feeling inside whenever I’m about to get up in front of people and share myself with them – either my voice in song, or myself as another character? As a performer, shouldn’t this be easy and natural for me? Am I not meant to be a performer if I still get these feelings? Am I going down the wrong path?
All of these thoughts swirl in my head as I try to make sense of why I still get so nervous in sharing my gifts with other people. I feel like I want more practice in it, that I want to be on a national tour where I’m singing my heart out every night in a different city every night. Will that cure my performance anxiety? If I just get so used to it will it feel like second nature and I’ll no longer get the pre-performance nerves?
Then again, there is magic in the nerves. There is adrenaline and energy and excitement in the nerves. I feel I do my best when there is a touch of that energy and if it were to go away, it might start to feel mundane and boring.
It’s that initial rush when you’re about to go on stage. It feels like taking a plunge off the deep end. Once you’ve jumped, you’re swimming free in the deep blue water, the lights are shining bright on you and you’re electric. You are in your element. You know your place is on the stage.
But when the nerves take over, either in an audition or the first time you’re singing in front of somebody, my throat closes up, my body tenses, and I am no longer free.
Maybe part of why performing is so invigorating is because it continues to challenge you and push you out of your comfort zone over and over and over again.
I’m not sure why my body reacts this way or if seasoned professionals feel a similar type of feeling of performance anxiety, or if it really is just me – but what I do know is that the feeling after a performance, of feeling like you’ve just soared higher than you’ve ever been and are coming back to earth feeling like a thousand pound weight has been lifted off your chest and you feel vibrant and ALIVE – that feeling will always be worth the nerves.