Do you know what Americans’ number one fear is? According to the Washington Post (and about a million other sources), it’s public speaking. I get it. I’m one of those sources. I get insanely nervous speaking in front of a group. Sweaty palms, heart racing, chest tightening, voice going up several octaves. It sucks.
As a dancer, you probably have more experience with overcoming nerves than I do, but plenty of performers I know still struggle with nerves after thousands of performances. No matter how hard you try to relax, your body is acting like there's a hungry tiger about to attack you on stage. So how do you get your nerves under control and give an amazing performance when your body is freaking out?
I use a method I learned from Mel Robbins’ fantastic book, The 5 Second Rule. She says that she, as the most booked female motivational speaker in the world, still gets nervous every time she goes out on stage. The way she combats it is called “reframing.” I use it, and you can too. Here’s how.
Remember those symptoms we have when we get nervous? Sweaty palms, heart racing, that sort of thing? Turns out, those are the exact same things that happen in your body when you’re simply excited about something. Just found out your crush likes you back? Your palms start to sweat and your heart feels like it’s going to explode, just like when a tiger is about to attack. Your BODY is reacting the same way to feeling nervous as is does to feeling excited, and you can use that to your advantage.
Next time you’re feeling nervous before an audition or performance, reframe that feeling as excitement. That way, you convince your brain that there’s no danger by giving it a reason for those nervous feelings. Your body doesn’t know the difference.
When that sweaty-palm feeling comes on, instead of saying “I’m nervous,” which only brings more nerves, tell yourself you’re excited. Say over and over in your mind “I’m excited to perform today…. I’m excited to perform today….” and guess what? Your brain will chill out because it knows there’s nothing to be afraid of. There can’t be a tiger on stage if you’re excited to perform!
Next time you’re feeling nervous, just remember you’re actually excited! Give it a try and let me know if reframing your fear as excitement works for you. I’d love to hear your story! And I highly recommend Mel Robbins' The 5 Second Rule for overcoming all sorts of personal hurdles, from performance anxiety to procrastination.