How to Get Over Your Fear of Stage Fright
Stage fright is awful. It's that debilitating feeling you get while giving a presentation, speech or performance in fear that you'll mess up and your reputation will take a hit. But there's actually a very logical reason why we feel like a truckload of butterflies are dumped into our stomach.
Since we're social animals, we spend a lot of time worrying about reputation. Getting on stage to perform puts you in a vulnerable place that could alter the way people perceive you. This situation creates a natural process in your body which involves the autonomic nervous system. You may have heard it described as your fight or flight response. If something is going to attack you — or in this case, getting on stage to potentially ruin your reputation — your body prepares to fight or run away.
Because you're freaking out, the hypothalamus in your brain makes the pituitary gland secrete something called the Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which flows through your body to your adrenal glands, which pumps adrenaline into your body. WHOOSH! Your back slouches and you start to shake as you prepare to "attack." You sweat, your blood pressure jumps, and your digestion slows down to deliver nutrients and oxygen to the muscles instead of your stomach, which is why you feel like you're going to puke.
How can you combat stage fright?
The easiest thing you can do is practice. By repetition, it'll increase your familiarity with the presentation and improve your confidence going into the event. Another thing to ask yourself is: are people really going to care if I stumble on my words or look a little nervous? It's likely that you're putting more pressure on yourself than you need to. And unless you're performing for a tough crowd, you probably won't get heckled. Stand up comedy is a beast of its own and we recently spoke about this on our podcast.
Just remember that everyone gets stage fright from time to time. John Lennon famously puked before most of his performances and he performed thousands of times. So stage fright may never go away, but it does get easier with exposure and practice.