My Dear Friend: Stage Fright

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Fear is a powerful emotion.  It’s function is to keep us alive, to keep us from danger and harm.  That’s great and all, but in the modern times we live in, it is rare to find oneself in imminent physical danger.  I, for one, have never had to fight off an actual bear.  So this instinct has transformed.  Fear’s function has shifted from avoiding physical danger to avoiding psychological and social danger.  We, as a species, are social beings, after all.  The instinct is to remain part of the in group, the tribe.  Survival depends on it.  

Fear is also the natural response to change, to the unknown.  The unfamiliar could be dangerous, so says our instincts.  So we often stay in our comfort zones, stick with our habits, and stop exploring.  Combine this with the social aspect, and it is no wonder so many people suffer from stage fright.  After all,  in the world of live theater, facing the unknown is a guarantee.  Every performance is a different experience, even with the same play and actors.  So acting, in many ways, is the double whammy.  It touches on every aspect of fear and what makes an individual afraid.  

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I am no stranger to stage fright.  I used to hate it, thinking I shouldn’t have it, wishing I could overcome it.  When I finally learned to understand it, then my relationship with fear changed.  I learned to embrace it, accept it as part of the experience.  Truly, the reality is that there is risk in every action, every decision.  Even when we supposedly, “play it safe” we risk missing out on experiences and opportunities that could be highly rewarding.  We risk denying ourselves opportunities which could enrich our lives.  

My greatest fear is to live a life unfulfilled, full of hesitation, missed opportunities, and regret.  I want a life I can look back on with pride and excitement.  I want to collect experiences, I want to tell stories of adventure. I want to do the things I love, and I refuse to let fear stop me.  After all, it is one thing to feel fear, and another thing entirely to be scared.  While I know that it is impossible to not feel fear, I refuse to let it control me.  If I can accept the feeling of fear as part of the experience, it changes.  I undermine fear’s power to stop me.  So while I do feel fear, feel stage fright, I get to control it, instead of the other way around.  I can transform it into energy, which I can then utilize in my performances.  In this way, I’m not scared to do anything that elicits the fear response.  Because of this, stage fright and I have become great friends.

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If I have to choose between living the life I want, or avoiding the sensation of  fear, I hope I always have the courage to embrace fear and do it anyway.  Even if it means standing off stage, trembling as I wait for my cue, I will do it.  Even if my voice shakes and my whole body trembles, I will do it.  The rewards far outweigh the temporary discomfort of stage fright.  I choose the rewards.  I choose fear.  So bring it on, bears.  You can’t scare me.