Compassionate Counseling

Spiritually-Integrated Psychotherapy and Counseling, a service of CSER

Compassionate Counseling

Performance Anxiety

by Rae Henry

[Ed.Note:The ideas contained in this article are consistent with the work that I offer those with performance anxiety, REBT. Use them, both before contacting me and after we work together.]


So, you're a fabulous singer or at least on your way to becoming one, right? However, even though your dreams are big and your determination to achieve them are even bigger, there is one thing which may be creating doubt in your mind as to whether you REALLY want to move forward – PERFORMANCE!!!

Being nervous about getting up in front of an audience of a couple of hundred people – or for some of us, even ONE person other than the one that looks back at us from inside the mirror – is surprisingly common. In fact I reckon it's safe to say that no-one who has ever performed can say they've NEVER felt nervous about it!

Believe me, you are SO not alone when it comes to nerves. I still get nervous EVERY time I perform – no kidding!
Nerves are a good thing though…Sure, they don't FEEL all that good if you don't see the benefits they provide BUT…Nerves actually add spark to your performance by supplying you with extra energy and more quick wit and clearer thinking. The ability to 'think on your feet' increases when you are feeling nervous. This means that if something WERE to go wrong – and most of the time nothing does – you would be able to quickly think of a way to cover it up, fake it or use the situation to your advantage. However, an 'attack of the butterflies' can sometimes feel more like an attack on your heart and can leave you feeling incredibly tense and unable to perform.

Here are a few tips that I give ALL of my singers when it comes to performance and nerves:

  •  KNOW YOUR STUFF!! Be as prepared as you can be by knowing your repertoire (song's) back to front, inside-out and have the ability to perform it whilst standing on your head if necessary

This way, you lessen the risk of nerves occurring as a result of thoughts like 'I wish I had practiced more'. Instead you can say 'I have done all that I can to prepare myself for this performance and I AM READY!

  • Train yourself to begin thinking of what could go RIGHT instead of what disasters could occur.

Did you know that we have around 60,000 thoughts per day? Did you know that around 86% of those thoughts are NEGATIVE? Did you also know that around 99% of all negative thoughts are GROSS misrepresentations of REALITY? Kind of hits home how easy it is for our 'ego minds' to take over and feed us a patch of 'meadow muffins'!

Your thoughts occur simply out of habits of thought you have created up until now by letting your mind do what it likes without question. Try something different and you will get an entirely different result. For example, begin to monitor the content of your thoughts in general – every day. There is no need to monitor EVERY thought; that would drive ANYONE crazy! Simply start by observing the content of your thoughts and assess whether they are generally negative or positive. If they're positive, keep thinking those thoughts. However, if you find yourself thinking negatively about someone or something, use your power of creativity to find something POSITIVE about that someone or something and gradually you will begin to train your mind to focus more on positive aspects of your everyday experiences. I could write a book on this…actually, I did! So, no need for me to say more right now, I think you get the gist, lol

  • Ask yourself 'What's the VERY worst that could happen' and then ask yourself 'Is it LIKELY to happen'. Notice how I used the word LIKELY instead of POSSIBLE? We all know that anything is POSSIBLE but many things that are very possible are also not very LIKELY.

More often than not, you will find that your biggest fear is simply that – FEAR.

F – False

E – Evidence

A – Appearing

R – Real

[Ed.note: Notice that this is completely consistent with REBT. Dispute the irrational belief. What is the evidence that the terrible, awful thing will happen? Remember, whenever you hear your mind say “terrible”, “awful”, “horrible” those are exagerations of reality that will keep you from performing. “It would be horrible if I peed my pants from fear.” No. It might be embarrassing, but not horrible. And no one but you would even know about a few drops in your underwear. (You would have to be physically ill to lose control of your sphincters completely. And then you would get sympathy, not derision.) Awfullizing only keeps you from success.]

Here's a simple strategy for analysing and clearing your worry:

a) Get the facts i.e. what is it that you're worries about? Is the cause of your worry probable or even logical? If so, is there anything you can do about it? If not, STOP worrying. Just continue on, doing the best that you CAN do. Again, the focus is an what you CAN do, not on the possible disasters.

b) After carefully weighing all the facts, come to a decision. If the cause of your worry is something you CAN take action on, decide WHAT action you will take

c) Once your decision is carefully reached, ACT! Get busy carrying out your decision and dismiss all anxiety about the outcome. Have you ever noticed that when you take your attention away from something that may be worrying you and place it onto something else, the feelings associated with the thing that you were previously worried about, disappear?…Hmmm…Food for thought..

Breathe deeply. Act calm and breathe deeply. Your mind is greatly affected by the actions of your body and the same is true for the opposite. If your body is acting out a 'confident state', your mind will take on the assumption that it is time to be confident and the brain will order a release of a specific chemical which calms the body further. It's quite a magical machine this vessel we reside in. So, the essence of THIS message is to 'FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT'. ACT calm, BE calm – calm enough to sing well at least. Remember, you want SOME nerves present to add that vibrancy & spirit to your performance.

We are creatures of habit, us Humans…So, in order to become consistent in being able to deal with your nerves in ANY situation, practice the above techniques in ALL situations in your life that have you building a butterfly Avery in your gut!


At the end of the day, my friend, you ARE going to be OK. I know it!

Trust yourself, be prepared, think positively and breathe deeply.