Your answer is the antidote to fear and anxiety on stage
*Welcome to The Musician's Mindset! I'm Katie, a certified life coach and flutist who helps musicians overcome performance anxiety and bring their best selves to the stage. I would love to talk to hear your stories about being a musician and what happens for you on stage. Click HERE and we’ll find some time to chat!*
Something I believe to be true - the mindset work we do off our instruments is profoundly impactful to our overall mindset while we are on our instruments.
We are entire beings with memories, lived experiences (both healthy and painful), imagination, physical bodies, talents, needs, desires… We are woven into one beautiful expression of many, many different aspects of our personhood.
There is a tendency for us to compartmentalize performance anxiety, imposter syndrome, or the fear of failure into one aspect of our personhood: our music-making.
I don’t know why, but when I step on stage my hands shake uncontrollably. It doesn’t happen in any other area of my life.
When I sit in orchestra, I feel like everyone is judging me. But, in my day-to-day life, I feel completely at ease.
I always feel like I should have practiced longer or worked harder, but I’m not a perfectionist! You should see how messy my room is!
Sometimes I feel defensive when I receive feedback during a chamber rehearsal, but I’m usually very easygoing.
Performing on stage is the Most Intense situation musicians encounter. It is the culmination of hours upon hours of dedicated work, personal sacrifice, money, passion, purpose, dreams … There’s a lot going on when we step on stage. Because it is so intense, the things that we believe about ourselves become magnified exponentially.
That makes sense, right?
When we’re in low-pressure situations, we won’t experience the fight, flight, or freeze response.
When we’re doing something we’ve allowed ourselves to be bad at (bowling, in my case!), we don’t worry about winning and embrace the fun of it.
When we’re doing something we feel confident at, there’s no imposter syndrome.
But, put on your concert black and it’s an entirely different story.
Except … it isn’t.
The factors that contribute to performance anxiety run deep inside us. When we begin to unpack for ourselves what drives our own personal stage fright, we will see that it isn’t limited to making music.
There are fundamental orientations of how we fit into this world that need to shift so that we can make music more freely.
So today I offer you one question to think through as you begin your own personal process of understanding your performance anxiety.
What makes you worthy?
Worthy to step on stage?
Worthy to be in that ensemble?
Worthy to get paid for your art?
Worthy to honor your heart’s desires?
Worthy to believe in yourself?
Worthy to be loved?
I’m not going to lie, there were long periods of my life where my answer would have been: I’m not worthy. So if that’s where you are, too, know that you aren’t alone.
This simple question encourages us to become clear on where we find our personal value. As musicians, so many of us believe our worthiness comes from our achievement. I’m worthy to step on stage because I have fancy degrees and studied with the best teachers.
I encourage you to challenge this notion. Explore where your worthiness can be found outside of achievement. If you strip away all the achieving, what’s left? Your character? Your effort? How you love? Who loves you?
Another way to look at personal worthiness is to shift your focus to someone else.
What makes your daughter, your niece, your sister worthy?
What makes someone who can’t care for themselves or contribute to society worthy?
What makes a beginner violinist worthy to make music?
Is one person’s art worthy and another person’s art unworthy?
What if someone expresses violence? Are they worthy? Do they become unworthy at some point?
If it is true for them, isn't also true for you?
These are challenging questions to unpack. At least they are for me! And it’s made even more difficult because there isn’t a right answer. There’s just a right answer for you.
You get to decide for yourself why you are worthy, why your music is worthy, why bringing your imagination into the world is worthy.
I can tell with 100% certainty that it is! But, each of us needs to find a clear answer to the question What makes us worthy for ourselves.
Once you understand why you are worthy, you have an antidote to the fear and doubt that come up when you step on stage.
You possess greater resilience because you know that your worthiness does not hinge upon how well you perform.
You are able to understand that your art is in process and doesn’t require anything more than you showing up the best you can that day.
You have a profound gratitude for the privilege of making music and creating a world that is more connected through your work.
You understand that music is a big, beautiful, passionate expression of your heart, and also that it is one of many ways that you are worthy as a person.
In short, when you don’t feel like you are enough, you have answered for yourself why, in fact, you are.
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.
Founder of The Musician's Mindset
Katie is a certified life coach 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.