You know that feeling you get when you accomplish something. This feeling can be subtle or overwhelmingly awesome. Subtle when it applies to doing dishes, you’re glad they’re done and you don’t have to worry about it anymore…. until tomorrow. The feeling becomes awesome when it’s something significant that you worked hard on like an old car you’ve been restoring with for years and you can finally start it and take it for a drive without loud noises and smoke. There are also the average feelings of victory as well. When you beat a video game or win a card game. Not really important stuff, but it’s still makes you feel good for a very short time. These feelings are circumstantial and temporal. They begin to fade immediately after the moment has passed. What does this have to do with overcoming you stage fright? Keep reading. We need to get into what really going on inside of us.
You’ve heard of people living in the glory years of high school football victories. This happens because they don’t want the feeling to pass. Reality is it is long gone, but since they are afraid to let go they exhume the memory from the grave and try to breathe life back into it by talking about it all the time as if it was last night. This persons motivation is coming from fear. Fear they will no longer be able to live up to what had once been accomplished. This will totally paralyze you. It stops you from moving forward and being victorious again. You have become a “has-been”. No one wants to be that. This happens to musicians a lot as well after a band has done something significant. They might be tempted to worship that experience and think that was their 15 min. of fame. Well, maybe it was 15min., but does that mean you just give up? Most will give up. People do it without even realizing it. Standing in the shadow of past victories can be intimidating and by esteeming that former success you might feel a small sense of accomplishment again, but deep beneath that surface lurks what you’re trying to cover up; FEAR!
You can put up a front with everyone else, but it’s best to just be real. To do that you have to be honest with yourself. If you have fear then you will need to face it. It’s not going anywhere until you do. You can hide from it, but that makes you a coward. Yes, I’m calling you out. Are you a coward? Are you scared? Be honest with yourself. Everyone has fears, but only the brave admit them and face them. If you want to move forward in your guitar playing, your band, your life, or whatever you’re trying to do then you have to deal with this internal obstacle.
Knowing that fear is there is the first part. Next you have to recognize the reasons for it being there. This will give you the right context about what’s going on in your emotions and thoughts. We must bring what’s going on inside of us to the surface to get it out. Admit to yourself out loud that fear. Confess it. Say what you are afraid of and write it down in detail. Writing it down requires more detailed thought and not just a vague admittance of fear. This can be hard to do if you’ve buried it for a long time. I am proud of you if you’ve taken these steps.
The fear is still there, but now it’s beginning to get scared of you! So, how do we assassinate this evil dictator of our emotions? We face it. Let’s break this down and come up with a plan first. If the fear has been there a long time it isn’t going to just go away.
You will be the best conspirator because you know what you’re afraid of, where it comes from, and when it started. If you don’t know these details then sit down and think through it thoroughly. Write it down. Then burn it. Dealing with the mind is the trickiest of things to master. It’s not physical or visible. And it’s inside your head. Part of what you will have to do is simple. If you’re afraid of playing guitar in front of people then you will have to just do it. But there is a right way to go about this. You might just get up and do it, but if you’re not prepared then it will show in your performance. You will not play to your fullest potential, you will look nervous, and you not play your best because of it. To just go out and play could backfire. The feelings(not reality) of failure would prove to yourself that you are right to be afraid. This is when it gets really hard to get this out of your head. Once you’ve “proven” to yourself you are right, it gets imprinted deeper into your mind. You then become even harder to convince otherwise, whether it be by someone else or yourself. This sickness if not treated will become fatal to your progress.
Being brave is great, but smart as well. Think of this as an intelligent enemy. To prepare for battle soldiers need to train. Physically and mentally in extreme conditions. Then a strategy must be created to deal with this. Training needs to take place daily. Start by recording yourself playing and make sure it’s a video. Audio will work if that’s all you have. Do this a lot. Be OK with the things you are insecure about. Refine them. This should prove to be the biggest help. You can do this when no one is home and don’t give in to the temptation to delete it. I’d highly recommend saving it and looking back at the progress you will have made over time. Do this for one week and keep track of the difference. Record, review, refine, repeat. Don’t quit!
We’re talking about facing the fear inside your mind. This is why we record with video. You can see yourself for who you are. Learn to be OK with yourself. You don’t have to love everything. I’m not trying to get you to be vain and self-absorbed. Just don’t hate yourself. If you want to succeed and improve your guitar playing and performance then you need to come along side yourself and not make it harder for yourself. There are enough other things in life that we have to battle with. We don’t need to add to the list.
When you have reached the stage of beginning to accept your lack of perfection in your skills it will “open a door” to get to the stage beyond that. You can’t skip any steps. You have to go through the first door to get to the second. Even if you could skip stages you’d find you are not prepared for that level of progress yet. Earlier we talked about braving it and just getting out there on stage, but you’d be playing live without being prepared. You will get discouraged when it becomes overwhelming. So, to get to the next stage, master the stage you’re on. Start in front of the mirror where you are your only audience. If you are not a fan of yourself then you are not going to convince anyone else to be a fan.
Another point to consider is settling for mediocrity. You don’t have to be the worlds best guitarist. Your goals and dreams are personal and that’s a good thing. What I’m talking about is stopping before the finish line. That line is defined by you and your desires or personal dreams. Settling is when you see improvement and say to yourself, “I’m better than I used to be. This is good enough.” Stop right there! Listen to what you just said and evaluate if that was your goal. If it was your goal, than I would like to encourage you to believe you can get to a higher goal.
Standing Upon the Obstacles of Even Higher Mountains
What?! More obstacles?! … No, it doesn’t end after you’ve faced your fear. That’s not what you wanted to hear, right? Well, I’m not here to encourage mediocrity and make you feel all happy and satisfied. Actually, I would like you to feel good, but not in a flattering way. I want you to feel good about the road ahead. The only way the grass is greener on the other side is if you are ready for the other side and can accept what else is on the other side. A simple analogy is that mountain tops are beautiful and we all want to be on one. To feel like we’re at the top of the world. So, get ready to climb a mountain and not just endure it. Love it. It’s hard, but it’s healthy. A mountain is amazing and it’s a new challenge to conquer. This kind of perspective is one of hope, not fear. You can’t see anymore obstacles, just mountain tops. This perspective comes once you’ve gotten to the first mountain top. You feel the freedom of being up there and your vision is expanded, not limited by the view of being stuck at the bottom in the shadows.
Can you see what I’m saying? Once you video tape yourself a few times and work on some small issues first you move up the great mountain of your ultimate goal. You’re not at the top, but can see better from that elevation. Keep going. It’s always easier to just go back down. But the bottom wasn’t all that fun and it isn’t what we really want.