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Stage Fright

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by keyboardplaya, Sep 13, 2020.

  1. keyboardplaya

    keyboardplaya New Member

    Hello TMS community,

    I am a professional pianist and have long suffered stage fright. I am calm and in control when playing alone but as soon as eyes are on me (depending on the situation), I often get anxious. And for me (and all tms people), anxiety=pain. Nobody knows about my struggle except for me. Does anyone have any recommendations for how I can overcome my stage fright. I practice very hard (well over 10,000 hours) and have been playing since I was a baby. I have been playing for nearly 30 years. I have performed all over the world and done literally thousands of gigs.

    The ideas I had were: 1. to let myself be anxious. Don't fight it. Just let it be there and continue playing anyway. Fighting the fear is what makes it worse. Letting it be there will undo it. 2. I also have been trying to remind myself, "I am great, I am a master at this, this is easy, there's no pressure, I have absolutely nothing to prove". Stuff like that. What do y'all think?
  2. Dorado

    Dorado Beloved Grand Eagle

    It sounds like you are tremendously talented! Even the best performers get stage fight.

    I played on a sports team for a bit in college. I ultimately quit because it felt too much like a job, but I remember one of my teammates saying I needed to “just relax” because my game was so much better when I simply let go. My mom is still probably (but rightfully) pissed about all the expensive Nike cleats that are still collecting dust in my childhood closet; however, I am proud I didn’t give up over anxiety. I still feel this way on occasion when I present at work. A VP identified me as possessing talent in this area, but I tend to be a perfectionist and start hyper fixating over every pause or “um.” Nobody seems to have the slightest clue, but I used to tear myself to shreds mentally. My way of coping has been reminding myself of the value I know I provide - it sounds like you already know this about yourself. It’s also fantastic that you recognize how symptoms are caused by your anxiety. You are far ahead in this way! And despite your stage fight, you haven’t given up.

    Have your nerves gotten better at all over the years, or does your progress feel stagnant? Is the anxiety consistent throughout your performances or does it eventually decrease as you continue the show? Does the thought of having anxious thoughts trigger even more thoughts? Are you worried that the anxiety affects your performance, or is it more about wishing you could truly feel connected with your performance and the moment?
    Baseball65 likes this.
  3. keyboardplaya

    keyboardplaya New Member

    Hey Dorado, nice pic! You see last dance?

    My progress can feel stagnant. It's hard to tell now as we're in the pandemic and I'm only doing occasional performances. I would say as whole it has gotten better over time, as I have continued to practice and improve at my instrument and know about tms/the power of the mind. The thought of being anxious makes me more anxious indeed. That's why i want to try to just let the fear be there instead of trying to fight it off or get upset about it. All in all, though, I am not where I want to be. I want to play in front of anyone as if no one is watching me. So that I am completely calm. Basically, so I don't give a s*&* who listens.
  4. Dorado

    Dorado Beloved Grand Eagle

    I saw it back when it was first premiered! MJ was a big part of my childhood and the king of our city and suburbs. One of his sons played a few games against my high school (not me). MJ attended and had security around him to avoid talking to anyone, but I can’t blame him. :) I wonder how much pressure his children felt to live up to his legacy? That alone would’ve given me endless TMS symptoms!

    Have you ever been able to fully let go during a performance? Do you feel this anxiety in other areas of your life outside of performing? The fact that it’s gotten better is fantastic. Are you a perfectionist? How is your self-esteem as a whole?
  5. keyboardplaya

    keyboardplaya New Member

    I am an absolutely insane perfectionist. My self- esteem is low right now...the pandemic has taken away my financial stability, my career and my confidence as a whole. I have let go during performances but it never happens because I try to do anything. It just happens and I fall into the music deeply. It's never forced when it does. This is how playing by myself often is. I am not afraid so I fall deeply into the music and flow. I feel this anxiety in other areas of life but less so because piano is the most important thing in my life. In general I am very perfectionistic and hard on myself.
  6. Dorado

    Dorado Beloved Grand Eagle

    I am very sorry that the pandemic has been so hard on you. That is completely understandable. Perfectionist tendencies and TMS often go hand in hand with one another. Do you find yourself catastrophizing before and/or during performances? How do you address and manage negative thoughts? I would start there if you haven’t already. Truly, it sounds like you have so much going for you - it’s incredible how the way we perceive ourselves is often so misaligned with what others see.
  7. keyboardplaya

    keyboardplaya New Member

    I appreciate you. I have catastrophized and thought that I should quit if I can't fix my stage fright. But the way I am addressing this is by trying to remind myself that I am great at what I do and that I have a lot to offer but nothing to prove. I am trying to see that those thoughts are silly. The symptoms are just the body's expression of the fear. Fear of pain and fear of not sounding good. I understand fully what the cause is and how the thoughts work. I just don't quite see how to turn it off. Unless the things I wrong above are the answers....
  8. Dorado

    Dorado Beloved Grand Eagle

    There are no wrong answers! Except MJ would say that quitting is the wrong answer. My cognitive behavioral therapist always asked me what I believed the worst possible scenario would be. What are you most afraid of? I know you said not sounding good frightens you, but no performer is perfect, not even Frank Zappa when he played the guitar or Mariah Carey at her vocal peak when she could use that whistle register all day long. And people still consider them to be some of the greatest artists of all time. Even MJ made some significant errors. How do you feel when an artist you admire makes a mistake? If you’ve been practicing that long, you surely must be pretty awesome!
  9. keyboardplaya

    keyboardplaya New Member

    I completely agree...making mistakes doesn't matter at all. I make them whether I am relaxed or not. It's part of life. It's a silly fear that I should lose. A teacher used to tell me this, "you have a lot to offer and nothing to prove". I think that's kind of the mindset to adopt.... and thanks for the compliment! I surely try hard at it :)
    Dorado likes this.
  10. Duggit

    Duggit Well known member

    Dianna Kenny is a now-retired professor who held appointments in two departments at the University of Sydney: psychology and music. Her specialty was music performance anxiety. In 2011 she published a book titled Music Performance Anxiety. It is available on Amazon in paperback and ebook, but both are a bit pricey.

    I have not seen the book, but based on a paper she published in 2004, I think her discussion of treatments likely concerned things like cognitive and behavioral interventions, hypnotherapy, meditation, and anti-anxiety drugs. At some point, she became an enthusiast for treatment with Intensive Short-term Dynamic Psychotherapy. I don’t know when that occurred, but if it was after 2011 (as I am guessing is the case) the book would not discuss that. She published a paper with psychiatrist Allan Abbass in 2014 titled Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy for Severe Music Performance Anxiety. It is available through Abbass here:

  11. keyboardplaya

    keyboardplaya New Member

    Thanks Duggit. I appreciate the link. I read it. I guess it still leaves me with how do I tackle this crazy emotional backdrop that may or may not exist. I have worked with a tms therapist already for many sessions and cannot afford more. It's also noteworthy that I don't feel this way all the time on performances. And I much less often experience it when playing by myself. Playing alone is therapy. I want it to be the same when playing for others.

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