Facing Fear to Move Beyond “Stage Fright”

Yesterday, I went to a birthday party with my partner Scott . When we got there, 3 men were playing instruments: a bass, guitar, and drum kit.

Scott jumped in right away with his remarkable Jerry Lee Lewis style piano playing, and there I sat with my little djembe drum, feeling completely ridiculous and out of place. (Turned out to be a small birthday party, just the 4 guys and me.)

“Sing with us!” They all said, to which I replied, “I don’t know the lyrics to any songs. I only know the choruses. So I’ll pass.”

As an aside, I am a singer. I’ve performed on stage in front of hundreds of people, but I always rehearse for these performances. Winging it has never been one of my strong suits.

“Then drum with us!” They said, to which I replied, “You’re professional musicians. I can’t play djembe with you guys.”

“Professional?” questioned Joe, the drummer. “I don’t know about that. I just make this stuff up. When I play drums the experts know I’m totally faking it.”

My partner Scott often says the same thing about his piano playing.

But Joe and Scott are truly remarkable musicians. The majority of people on this planet would never see these guys as anything less than talented.

I thought, “If they can fake it and sound amazing, maybe I can fake it and sound amazing too.”

With a bit of courage creeping in, I decided to sing.

Sure enough, after I sang the first stanza I couldn’t remember the rest of the lyrics. I got all flustered, my timing faltered and everything went downhill from there.

I gave up and sat down in the middle of the song, feeling more embarrassed and frustrated than ever.

I love singing and I truly wanted to sing with them, but I resigned myself to drumming which was something I could do more comfortably knowing they’d never be able to hear me over their loud, amplified music.

As the day progressed the guys invited me to sing again and I said, “You know, I’d rather remain invisible, so I’m going to drum over here and you can stop asking me to sing.”

But secretly, I desperately longed to sing, I just couldn’t bear the thought of making a fool out of myself again!

After awhile the birthday boy sang a song. He forgot the lyrics. Instead of getting embarrassed and removing himself from the circle he just continued playing guitar. He didn’t give up. He didn’t sulk. He played until he remembered the words.

I gave up, the birthday boy didn’t. Same problem, totally different solutions.

How you deal with fear is a strong indicator of your ability to succeed

When it comes to fear, you can:

  1. Acknowledge your desires, yet never commit to manifesting them, choosing instead to remain small. This choice usually results in a lifelong dissatisfaction stemming from the deflated feeling that comes from giving up.
  2. Follow your passions, which inevitably lead to some sort of fear, then give up, and resign to remaining invisible.
  3. Or, You can commit to the path, surrender to the process, and keep going no matter what.
Don’t lose your grip on the dreams of the past
You must fight just to keep them alive
(song: Eye of the Tiger by Survivor)

Your success in life and work is largely dependent on the option you choose. In order to move through the fear, though, it’s useful to understand a bit of what’s going on:

Fear happens when you don’t TRUST your ability to move forward.

So the question really becomes, not just “what am I afraid of?” but,

1 “What do I NEED in order to move forward?” and

2 “Who can help me navigate this journey so I succeed?”

For some people, simply understanding the causes for fear is enough to help them persevere and get through to the other side.

For others, though, it is useful to have help and encouragement from those who have gone before them. Mentors can give you direction, show you the ropes, and lend a hand when you begin to falter so you can more easily pick yourself up and resume course.

I Get By with a Little Help from My Friends
(song: by the Beatles)

Last night, as the musical evening drew to a close, Scott encouraged me to sing the same song I tried to sing earlier. I asked the guys to sing with me, and they agreed to shout out the lyrics before we got to the verses.

So I did it. Feeling completely ridiculous, I picked up the mic and not surprisingly, forgot the first line of the song.

The music kept playing and I kept standing at the mic, determined not to give up this time. The birthday boy looked at me and mouthed the lyrics I couldn’t remember.

I waited for the music to roll around to the right part and when I was ready, I jumped in.

Finally, I could sing, trusting the process a little more because I had 4 great musicians who were at least partly faking their way through the same song (or so they claimed).

When I faltered, they sang to help me through.

Growing somewhere great is about being in the process.

It’s not about figuring out how to move forward first in order to avoid fear.

It’s not about facing your fears first, then doing the work later.

Nor is it about figuring out exactly what you want to do now and then doing it when you’re ready.

It all happens simultaneously.

The thing to remember is that fear and struggle do not have to be the end of your path, and that it’s much easier to move through the struggle when you have the loving support of people who went before you and successfully found their way through to the other side.

The questions for the day:

Who can support you on your journey, both emotionally and practically?

What can you do to put a support system in place to help you grow forward?


About the Author:

I create unique soul medicine for strong, successful women to help them release the patterns that hold them back so they can live fully and powerfully from their Essential Self. To see if we’re a good fit to work together, set up a FREE session: Soul Medicine Session.