We were the last to arrive, the last on the list of songwriters, and the last on stage. I thought that being last was a blessing. I believed it would allow the tension to escape the room in time for our audition – like a party balloon slowly loosing air, its pressure changes reflecting the diminishing excitement, until finally relaxing to the ground, its skin loose.
I was wrong.
My fight-or-flight response came on strong as I counted down auditioners – six more to go, five more to go, four to go, three. . . I seriously thought I was going to choose flight.
Somehow I managed not to run from the room. Somehow my legs carried me to the stage. But my legs no longer belonged to me. Neither did my arms, my hands, my lips, my voice, my mind. . . My heart, which had been pounding in my ears for two hours, now beat faster and harder than I knew it could. And it was so loud. Surely everyone in the room could hear it.
Who the hell has their finger on the button controlling my nervous, musculoskeletal, respiratory, and circulatory systems?
I managed to smile. I managed to say everything I had practiced. I managed to make the audience laugh. But I didn’t manage to do the thing I had come to do.
I did not manage to sing. Not really. Not like I know I can. Not even close.
I was a scared animal, and the audience was my predator. They had turned into hungry wolves, and all I could see were bared teeth. I had one minute – one verse and one chorus to convince them not to attack. The shaky squeaks that came from my mouth were just enough to make them lose interest. I was clearly not a threat, and not a big enough meal.
This was my experience of our audition at The Bluebird Café.
Hello, my name is Anita, and I have severe stage fright.
It hurts my pride to say so – I have denied and minimized it for years – and I am embarrassed by it. But more important than my pride is my desire to once again enjoy singing in front of others.
So I am on a quest. I am ready to open myself up and heal this thing that keeps me from being my best, most fulfilled self. Those of you who have spent any time on my blog know that this kind of vulnerability makes me extremely uncomfortable. So then, you must also know how great my desire to overcome this stumbling block is.
This launches my new series called, “Fear Itself.” I will approach the subject of performance anxiety with kindness, honesty, and maybe even a little humor . . . maybe. I will share personal stories, newfound advice, articles, books, affirmations, triumphs, and disappointments. I will be frank about what I find helpful, what I feel makes the situation worse, and what I think is just plain nonsense. (Sharing an unfavorable opinion is another thing that makes me extremely uncomfortable.) And, although I can only say for sure what works for me, I hope some of you will find comfort and support through my journey.
I’ll end this first post of the series with hope – a quote from a very comforting figure indeed, the queen of positivity, Louise Hay. “Many people come to me and say they cannot enjoy today because of something that happened in the past. . . Because something unpleasant happened when they did something once, they are sure it will happen again today. . . Because I did poorly at my first audition, I will be terrified of auditions forever. . . The past is over and done and cannot be changed. This is the only moment we can experience. Even when we lament about the past, we are experiencing our memory of it in this moment, and lose the real experience of this moment in the process.”
This sums up my hope – to experience new moments of performance joy!
– Anita, Noted in Nashville
You Can Heal Your Life. (2004). Hay House, Inc. Page 69