Getting over stage fright is more difficult for introverts because we aren’t naturally comfortable in the spotlight. As an introvert and a flutist who wants to play music in front of people, I’ve been forced by the beast to find the best tips on how to get over stage fright.
In 8 Ways to Overcome Anxiety When You’re on Stage, I describe how stage fright (that wretched beast!) recently blindsided me. I was playing my flute in a concert – it was just me and an organist. A duet, which means that all my mistakes, missed notes, wrong notes, bad tones, and off beat tempo felt obvious to everyone. It was a horrible experience, and I was shocked at the power of performance anxiety.
As a result, I’ve been doing lots of reading and online research on how to get over stage fright. Below, I share the most helpful information I’ve found from my own experience, as well as books such as Nerve: Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress, and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool by Taylor Clark. These are the best tips for introverts who want to perform but feel crushed by stage fright.
Imagine getting up on stage and playing your guitar, flute, piano or didgeradoo without feeling an overwhelming wave of performance anxiety. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be free of insecurity, fear, and anxious feelings? Close your eyes, and experience the peace and joy that comes with playing an instrument with the sole purpose of spreading light, life, and enjoyment to others.
That’s what we have to work towards. That feeling of freedom, peace, and even joy at playing an instrument, singing, or acting in front of a live audience. That’s our goal.
But, as you’ll see here, that goal may not be attainable. In fact, most performers who suffer from performance anxiety have not learned “how to get over stage fright.” Rather, they’ve learned how to live with their performance anxiety.
More importantly, many musicians and actors have learned that they can still perform at an incredibly high level even when they’re scared and anxious about being on stage.
6 Tips for Getting Over Stage Fright
You’ll need to experiment with different ways to overcome performance anxiety until you find what works for you. I’m learning that for me, the best tip on how to get over stage fright is simply to play in front of people as much as possible. But, you may find that you can’t even stand up in front of an audience, much less play music! So you need to start with less anxiety-provoking ways to get over stage fright.
Here are a few ideas to help you along…
1. Learn what helps other musicians overcome anxiety
The best way to succeed at anything is to learn how others did it. Learn from their mistakes and successes, their failures and achievements. Be honest with people – don’t be shy about sharing your fears of performing in front of an audience. Most performers, actors, and musicians feel at least some performance anxiety, and they’d be happy to talk about it.
For example, when I was researching tips for getting over stage fright so I could write How to Deal With Performance Anxiety and Play Your Best, I learned that some professional orchestral musicians use prescription medication (beta blockers) to help them deal with anxiety while on stage. Beta blockers are heart medications that quell nerves, slow heart rates, and lower blood pressure. I’m not sure how commonly they’re prescribed for anxiety, but some musicians take them before performing on stage.
The reason some musicians use beta blockers to get over stage fright is because “head knowledge” doesn’t work for them. They know lots of facts about performance anxiety, but they can’t transfer that information from the heads to their hearts. So they use prescription medication to overcome stage fright. I don’t recommend beta blockers as a tip on how to get over stage fright for introverts – I’m just sharing the idea that different musicians have different ways to deal with performance anxiety.
2. Get out of your own head
I was recently blindsided by performance anxiety during a concert because I cared – a lot – about what the audience thought of me. I struggle with feelings of insecurity and inferiority, and I really wanted to play well. I focused on them and what they think of me! I wasn’t thinking about the music or my musical partner or the flute or making people happy with our songs.
Now, I believe that playing in front of people is about trusting God to work through me to bring light, joy, life, and beauty to others. It’s not about me. My second best tip on how to get over stage fright – especially for introverts – is to stop thinking about yourself. Lose yourself in the music. Focus solely on what you intend to create and how the music makes you feel.
3. Focus on the task at hand
“The key to dealing with performance nerves is to learn to channel your energy away from self-monitoring, worry, and the whole anxious cavalcade, and send it back toward the job you’re there to do,” writes Taylor Clark in Nerve: Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress, and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool. He’s citing UCLA anxiety specialist Michelle Craske in that quote.
Craske adds that musicians need to “devalue the importance of the audience, and place more emphasis on the story that’s being told through the music.”
If you focus on perfection, the audience, and your own fears and anxieties then you’ll lose the essence of the music. This is an especially important tip for introverts because we are prone to focusing on our discomfort at being in the spotlight. We need to train our brains to focus on our music, not our own self-conscious selves.
4. Get used to performing with a thudding heart and quivering hands
Here are two extremely helpful tips on how to get over stage fright from Nerve:
- Accept that performance anxiety will probably never go away – but you can change how you interpret your fear. And, you can perform at an incredibly high level!
- Realize that the audience can’t see your stage fright (unless you highlight it by succumbing to your fears and anxieties).
If you accept that stage fright will always be part of your experience as an introverted musician, then you can reframe and actually use your anxiety. Instead of being scared, think of your performance anxiety as energy that will give your music life and vitality.
And, if you realize that the audience can’t actually see your stage fright, then it can be something between you and yourself (or God). The audience can see your fears unless you let them. Choose to rechannel and refocus your anxiety into a higher level of performing.
5. Know that you can feel stage fright AND give an excellent performance
“Fears of collapsing on stage, forgetting the music, losing the place in the score, and similar concerns are all commonly reported by performers of many different levels of training and accomplishment,” writes Paul Salmon and Robert Meyer in Notes from the Green Room: Coping with Stress and Anxiety in Musical Performance.
“It’s just that the professionals have learned that such fears are seldom truly predictive of what will happen during the performance. In other words, they treat such thoughts as a normal part of performing and are not unduly distracted or frightened by them.”
6. Learn about introverted musicians and performers
Read 30 Most Famous Introverts and Celebrities Who Are Loners, and you’ll see you’re not the only performer who isn’t 100% comfortable in the spotlight!
The more you know about your own introverted personality traits, the higher your chances of using performance anxiety to energize yourself on stage in positive ways. For instance, introverts need lots of time alone. We get energy from being alone or in small groups. So, one of the best tips on how to get over stage fright for introverts is to spend time alone before a performance.
If you don’t know if you’re introverted, take my fast and free personality test for introverts – What an Introvert Really Looks Like: A Personality Test.
Two final quick tips on how to get over stage fright
Play or perform in front of people as much as possible. Rope your family, friends, coworkers, and neighbours into sitting and watching you play. This will help you get used to playing in front of an audience.
Know your music inside and out. Be able to play it at a performance-worthy level at least three times in a row. This will help you go on automatic pilot when stage fright hits.
You and Stage Fright
What are your thoughts on how to get over stage fright? The comments section is often the best part of my articles – please feel free to include your experience to my “best tips for introverts”
While I can’t offer advice on overcoming performance anxiety, I do read every comment. I encourage you to respond to other readers’ comments if you feel led, and to share your experience of stage fright. Writing often brings clarity and insight, and can help you process your feelings.
PS…if you want more tips for introverts, read Best Jobs for Introverts and People Who Like to Be Alone. It’s my most popular article about people with introverted personality traits, but it doesn’t contain any tips on how to get over stage fright :-)