The Virtues of Stage Fright

Stage fright isn't reserved for the big shows. It happens in the jam, at the open mic, and even during the lesson. Whenever you're putting yourself out there or on the line, butterflies, cold sweats, and that sinking feeling in your gut are very likely to pay a visit.

How do you overcome stage fright?

I don't think that's the right question, and even if there was a cure-all solution, I'd assert it wouldn't be wise to apply it.

The problem isn't stage fright, the problem is your relationship with it.

The arrival of stage fright lets you know that you're about to do something that matters and is worth it. It's a tap on the shoulder that says, "Hey. Pay attention. This is important."

So, the first thing to change about your relationship with stage fright is to stop resisting it and start thanking it. "Oh. Thanks for the reminder. Yeah. This is important. I do need to pay attention!"

Acknowledging stage fright's purpose and contribution helps to make it a welcome friend rather than a feared enemy. It also diminishes all the negativity you are inclined to pile up around it. Stage fright isn't inherently "bad." The way you engage with it, though, may well be.

After thanking stage fright for the "gentle" reminder that it's time to pay attention, you can reframe your mindset. Simply replacing the story of "I'm terrified" that's likely cycling through your head with "This is exciting" is an especially powerful tool. Our biological reactions to anxiety and excitement are almost identical. Switch out the labels and you begin to flip your psychological response.

Another effective way to reframe the situation is to remember to serve the song instead of trying to make it serve you. Detach from your ego concerns and treat the performance as a gift to others. Generosity cultivates well-being and further diminishes anxiety and fear.

Practice and performance are the paths to progress in your craft. Doing so out loud and in public provides the feedback you need about what's working and what isn't. It reveals what you've mastered and what needs further attention. Seek out those opportunities and invite stage fright along. Just be sure to keep it, and yourself, in its proper place.

A Guitarists Guide to "the Good Life,"

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