You can choose courage, or you can choose comfort, but you cannot choose both.Brene Brown
Yikes I Got Myself Into the Spotlight… Now What??!?
Have you ever done this? You accept a role or an opportunity which initially seems exciting then later a feeling of dread creeps in. Did I actually volunteer to get up on stage? In front of people? What was I thinking?
My internal conversation goes something like: “Maybe I can get out of it. Maybe I’ll get sick and legitimately can’t do it.”
Not that I want to let myself chicken out of things on purpose, but I can’t help but try and avoid the act of being vulnerable.
How about you? Have you ever agreed to something big and scary and then later regretted it? If what you agreed to involves braving the spotlight or putting yourself out in front of people and the idea terrifies you, these five tips can help!
1. Connect and Ground
Being nervous in front of people is perfectly natural, don’t be ashamed of stage fright. We have all been there! Whenever I feel nervous the first thing I do is a grounding practice or two (you can read about grounding practices here). If I’m nervous, my audience will see my nervousness and focus on me. If I’m worried about what they think of me the whole time, I can’t benefit them as much.
Next I turn my attention to my audience and think about what I want their experience to be. When we truly connect, when our hearts are in tune with the hearts of our audience-members, nerves won’t matter as much. We wouldn’t want to risk someone not hearing the message!
2. Focus On Your Mission
There must be a compelling reason you agreed to braving the spotlight in the first place. I mean, we introverts wouldn’t willingly volunteer to be in an exposed situation for no reason, am I right? It’s got to be pretty important to justify such reckless abandon, such wanton disregard for our personal embarrassment levels.
So, I invite you to ponder on that. Ask yourself ‘what is my mission?’ Connect with that mission. Is it important to you? Write it down on paper and look at it objectively.
Sidenote: Your mission can be something general and simple such as “help people” or “bring hope” or it can be specific like “share my research in molecular genetics” or “inspire others to become more vulnerable and honest with themselves by doing it myself on stage.” (Confession: that last one is my own personal music mission.)
If the mission is more important than your comfort levels, what’s stopping you? Either you believe in that mission or you don’t. If it’s not worthy of your efforts, then don’t do it. But if it IS worthy of your time and efforts, then you are going to have the face the fact your fear is getting in the way of the mission and one of them has to go. (Hint: it’s the fear.)
3. Be a Human Being
I invite you to allow yourself to be human. None of us are not perfect and if we were, we wouldn’t be human. So let’s let go of this fantasy of being perfect. That’s unrealistic and the attempt to do so will become a source of great unhappiness.
When it comes to performing or giving speeches in front of people, no one is expecting you to be absolutely perfect, you have to let that go.
In fact, since we are all humans and completely fallible, I would argue that most people (if not all of us) are secretly hoping you aren’t perfect up there. Perhaps we are a bit relieved when the performer makes a mistake or two so we can feel better about ourselves and our own mistakes. What do you think? Is there some part of us that likes it when someone braving the spotlight messes up?
Not in a terrible “Oh I’m glad that person just got their soul crushed on stage” kind of a way. But when you see someone being entirely human and then recover from it and go on, don’t you feel a tiny bit better about all YOUR mistakes which happen constantly? Does it give you a ray of hope to think that you also might recover from mistakes and go on with the show? Showing the world how to gracefully move on from the inevitable flubs and flounders is also a gift. We’re only human after all!
4. Remember It’s Not about YOU
If you look back at your mission, it likely isn’t all about you. If it is, you may need to reschedule your performance and re-examine your motives. Ask yourself if it’s worth even doing at all. Why? Because the path to a great performance involves getting out of yourself and asking how you can be of service to others.
I know, braving the spotlight seems like it would be all about….you. And those of us who are introverts really don’t like the spotlight shining on us, but did you know being nervous means you’re probably focusing too much on yourself?
In my experience, the way to be miserable as a performer is to place yourself at the center of importance. The people who are truly enjoying themselves up there, and being highly effective as well, are radiating a mission that comes from their heart and has others in mind. No exceptions.
As a musician, I’ve had to overcome a lot of nerves and face many different nerve-wracking situations while performing. It can be terrifying staring out at those expectant faces, well what you can see of them– sometimes that spotlight can be so bright it’s hard to see beyond the first few rows! But inside your heart you know they are there, watching you and suddenly you don’t feel worthy. Your throat goes dry, your stomach binds up in knots and whatever you had memorized or fully practiced flies right out the window.
If that happens to me, I close my eyes and imagine my songs sending love and inspiration out into everyone’s heart like rays of sunshine coming from the sun. Remembering that if I get nervous, I put that spotlight on myself and they won’t receive the love and inspiration. They’ll just focus on me.
5. Let Go of the Outcome
So now that you’ve done some grounding, connected with your mission, you’ve allowed yourself to be human and stepped out of the way so the message can shine through, what’s next?
The next part is the best part: let it go (yes, thank you Elsa).
You can now simply step out of the way and watch the magic happen. Watch while people respond to you with heartfelt emotions and smiles of relief and recognition. Step into the spotlight in all your glory as a present, connected human being with a powerful purpose.
And most importantly, let go of specific outcomes. If your mission didn’t seem to get accomplished this time, let that go. You showed up and did your best, that is all you can expect of yourself. You never know all the ways your offering was beneficial to others.
I can’t tell you how many times after a show, someone I didn’t think was listening at all has come up and told me in great detail how my songs touched them. As a general rule, always assume there was some benefit, even if no one told you, even if they themselves didn’t know about it until much later. In the very least, you shared your new-found skill of braving the spotlight with the world and possibly inspired others to do the same.
In conclusion: You are amazing!
I hope you found these tips useful and that your performances become more connected, more powerful and more fun as a result! Even if it’s baby-steps towards the goal, you CAN be more comfortable braving the spotlight and less nervous.
Please don’t forget that you are amazing. And you showed up for yourself today by reading this article, go you!
The world is waiting for your gifts, it’s time to let your amazingness shine.
Written by Sarah Caton
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