How to overcome stage fright and calm your nerves
Let’s talk Affirmations.
I can feel your hesitancy through the computer screen. At best, they’re maybe a little woo-woo. At worst, they’re … pathetic.
I hear you.
I was you.
Do I have affirmations playing in my headphones all day? No. Do I have them plastered across my bathroom mirror? Nope. Written on my hand? Nuh-uh.
But do I have inspiration to read in my practice space? Frick yeah I do.
They are my meditations when I play long tones.
They ground me when I lose myself in a shitty practice session.
They help me lift my heart and remember why I am working through the intonation in this excerpt … again.
I was first exposed to the idea of affirmations as a real and effective tool for healing by my therapist. She taught me that our negative thought patterns - you know the ones - create grooves in our thinking. Like a wagon that has rolled through the same path in the mud for years on end or a dog that has run back and forth along a fence line, wearing down the earth.
My grooves were as deep and as wide as the Grand Canyon.
When we have an established pattern of thinking - positive or negative - our brain naturally falls into that framework.
It is simply where our thoughts go when we allow them free reign. And for most classical musicians, our ruts veer negative.
It’s the nature of the work.
My youngest daughter struggles with negative self-talk. When she makes a mistake, looses her temper, feels frustrated she goes straight to “I’m the worst kid in the world.”
When you see that in a kid? Breaks your heart…
Every time we berate ourselves in a practice session, on stage or listening to a recording, we are effectively doing the same thing my daughter does to herself.
We are shaming the eight year old child within us who is just trying her very best.
We need to learn how to take a step back, to hold space for our inner child and tell her that her worth as a human has nothing to do with what she does.
She has inherent value just because she exists.
She is lovable. Always and forever.
She isn’t better when she wins an audition and she isn’t worse when she cacks a note.
She is worthy. Period.
So I started having my youngest repeat affirmations to me. “I am brave.” “I am special.” “I am loved.” “I matter.” “I am smart.” “I can do hard things.”
The first time I had her try this even I was skeptical. Would she roll her eyes, would she do it in a silly voice, would she flat out refuse?
But you know what? She did none of those things and it was the most beautiful thing to witness.
That strong, fierce little girl… she believed them.
Her face softened, her eyes grew brighter, her posture lifted to accept these words about herself. “I am brave.” “I am loved.” “I do matter.” “I am smart.” “I can do hard things.”
We have spent a lifetime telling ourselves that we are not enough. Day after day. Practice session after practice session. That rut is not going to be bridged with a couple of nice thoughts.
You are actually going to have to build yourself something new.
You are going to have to push through your adult cynicism, your adult priorities, your adult protections and build something beautiful for the child within you to walk across.
So, for me, every day I’m in my Morning Pages, I’m writing affirmations. I countering all the crap I said (and say sometimes still) with what is true.
My voice does matter,
I am worthy of love and belonging,
I am a beautiful musician.
As you look at your ruts, at your systemic negative self-talk patterns, think about the materials that you could use to build your own beautiful bridge.
They’ll be unique to you.
They’ll be the words that meet the empty places in your heart and fill them in a little bit.
And then start connecting those words, day after day, as your bridge grows and your fear diminishes.
Next Steps and Additional Resources
Here at The Musician's Mindset we have some incredible resources for developing and implementing mindset practices that will transform how you perform on stage.
First, check out our Personalized Mindset Tools Quiz to discover the mindset strategies perfect for YOU!
Join the waiting list for my FREE mini-course, How to Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve and Calm the Heck Down.
Founder of The Musician's Mindset
Katie is dedicated to helping musicians overcome stage fright and believe in their own unique artistic voice. She believes live classical music is a powerful antidote for the division, pain, and loneliness pervasive in the culture and strives to support all artists to confidently share their work with the world. She lives in Cincinnati with her husband, three kiddos, a dog, a snake, and a goldfish named Orca.