I know, I know. Anyone who suffers from performance anxiety is looking at this title and saying “Hayley you are out of your mind, there are no perks to being an anxious performer.” I often think this way too, but the truth is you can find something good in everything, even your worst moments. Looking through dark moments in a positive light will reflect your own strengths and leave you feeling overall more positive.
I often feel my anxiety holds me back in my performances, especially when panic is at its highest. This can be true. There have been auditions, rehearsals, and performances where my own anxiousness has prevented my from performing to the best of my ability. What I have come to find is, however, that same nervous energy can be channeled to strengthen your performances and make them even better.
So what are the perks of being an anxious performer?
- Every performance is a victory over your own fears. Think about it. Every time your nerves build up before a performance to the point they seem unbearable, you choose to go out there anyway. Whether it be playing a sport, singing, dancing, acting, or simply walking into a class, you are challenging your own fears. And once you do it, you’ve already beaten them. Congratulations little warrior, you’ve won!
- Every failure only strengthens you. Kelly Clarkson was right everyone, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. That audition you jumbled the words to a song out of your own nervousness? Think back on that when you finish slaying your solo in the school musical. When you were so nervous on the field you scored for the other team? Think back on that when you just score the winning goal at a state championship. You didn’t give up after. That voice in your head that said “You’re passionate about this, keep going” kept you strong.
- Nervous energy can fuel emotional connection. This one is for my fellow singers, actors, and dancers. A performance can be extremely well done, but when it portrays real emotion it can drive someone to tears. All of that nervous energy can be channeled to create a killer performance. I’ll give you an example. I get super nervous too. In Grease, there was one scene I used to get so nervous about where Rizzo sings “There Are Worst Things I Could Do” to Sandy and Sandy had to stand still on stage and just react. It’s easier to hide my nervous energy when I am moving around, but standing still is a struggle for me on stage. Luckily for me, I found a way out. The song immediately afterward is “Look at Me I’m Sandra Dee Reprise.” The stored nerves inside me actually drove me to tears which I used to sing the songs beginning where lines included “when they criticize and make fun of me can’t they see the tears in my smile.” There I thought of my anxiety and how it held me back and when people saw me and didn’t understand they would just laugh or make fun of my fidgeting and twitching. Then with the last line of the song, “hold your head high, take a deep breath and cry ‘Goodbye to Sandra Dee!'” I released all of the bottled up energy and took a deep breath. I was saying goodbye to the fear and the nerves. And I was thanking them, for giving me emotion and for showing me I’m human.
Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5)