Overcoming Stage Fright
Human beings have been overcoming stage fright for a long time ... even the greatest performers in history. Here we learn some powerful, and somewhat surprising lessons from one famous man's story.
It's a fair bet that people, just like you, have been oovercoming stage fright for at least as long as there have been stages. That's a long time when you consider this one, at Halicarnassus, has been around for about 2,300 years.
Sometimes I think we con ourselves into believing that we're the ony ones who feel so bad before a performance.
Well, that's never been true. And it sure isn't true today.
Did you know that one of the all time greats of the stage, Sir Lawrence Olivier suffered from it?
For about five years! This was at the height of his career and what's most interesting about his case, is the reason he gave for it developing.
He was worried that he was too tired to remember his lines.
I can well imagine that for a man who identified himself, quite understandably, as a great actor - that the thought of actually forgetting his lines would be terrifying, unthinkable.
Understand that as brilliant as Olivier was, he made the same basic mistake that we all make when we're afraid.
He forgot who he really was.
Even Sir Lawrence Olivier was capable of seeing himself as someone so small and weak that a mere phantom - a perfectly harmless thought - could get the better of him. Could cause him to struggle with overcoming stage fright... for 5 years.
Now, this has nothing to do with judging him, or judging you for feeling the same way. What a pathetic waste of intellectual effort that would be!
No. Instead use his example to help you understand that even the greatest performers in the human race can be undone by a thought.
When that thought first entered his head he hadn't forgotten his lines in reality. He just imagined he might. And as Einstein noted "Imagination always triumphs over will."
Overcoming stage fright has absolutely nothing to do with "will-power". It won't work and it never has, because there's no thing to exert your will against ... you're up against a phantom!
There's no way you, I or Lawrence Olivier can cope with the future ... because it doesn't exist! Especially the horrendous, terrifying future that we conjure up, so full of forgotten lines, the mind going blank in the middle of a presentation, hecklers throwing unanswerable questions at us ... and a long list of other demons.
There are several things to take from the fact that he had stage fright (along with Donny Osmond and Barbara Streisand to name just a couple of others):
- It doesn't matter how good you are, you've got to stay awake. The mind can trip you up. Don't take it too seriously.
- Just like Olivier, it probably won't be stage fright that you'll be remembered for. It'll be the performances you gave when the real you appeared. Free of fear. Magnificent.
- It won't last forever. It might seem like it at the time, but it will end. Either you'll die first (unlikely), or your attachment to the thoughts that cause stage fright will die. Either way it'll be over in a few years at the most. Why worry about it?
It took Olivier 5 years to work out how to overcome stage fright, acording to his autobiography.
In reality overcoming stage fright can't take any time at all. In each moment from now until the end of your life, all you can say is whether you are feeling the sensation you call stage fright or not.
If you just let the thoughts come, no matter what they contain, and then let them go on their way like the harmless ghosts that they are ... then the answer's always going to be no.
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