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Performance Anxiety – and everyday experience?

There are few people it seems who can stroll casually onto a stage in full control of all their faculties and present their message, sing their song or deliver their speech without even the merest hint of a butterfly in their tummies.

Just the thought of public speaking creates panic in many and there is a plethora of suggested techniques around how to manage it.

But do we feel performance anxiety at other times too – in our everyday lives?

Do we feel under the scrutiny of others in our work, in our homes, as we walk through life – and do we in fact feel the need to ‘perform’ in these everyday situations too?

Where does this need to ‘perform’ come from?

Is it possible that we unwittingly raise our children from their youngest moments to be ‘performers’?

In the way we celebrate their first step, are we giving our children the message that when they perform well, we are happy with them? But surely we need to reinforce and encourage these milestones – don’t we?

At school, the picture is perhaps even clearer. Achievements are overtly rewarded with certificates, praise, prizes, medals, gold stars and the like. Isn’t it a fact that the way we raise our children conditions them to behave in a certain way and to perform for their parents, their teachers, their peers, their siblings and the world?

We avidly watch people who have vast amounts of ‘success’ in this world because they are performers – sports stars, actors, actresses, musicians, singers, comedians, TV stars etc. Is the message we are giving our youth as they grow up ‘don’t be yourself, be someone else – be a rock star, a football player, an actor, a hero – be 'someone'...

But what happens to the person they naturally are? There is a rejection of their innateness – the being that they already are – in favour of becoming a performer of some kind.

It seems the world rewards performers, but not those who seek the simplicity and authenticity of just being themselves.

What is the impact of this separation from the innateness of self? – anxiety, stress and tension?

Is there tension caused between the person we truly are and the person we are trying to be for the world? Like stretching a rubber band – there is tension between who we are and ‘who’ we seek to become.

Are we anxious because we are at the mercy of others for confirmation – rather than being in the confirmation of ourselves from within? And are we anxious because we have become divided from the wholeness innate in us?

Suddenly, we are all performers in our world – not beings who are simply accepted just for being ourselves.

Do we then live with performance anxiety in our everyday lives? Is there constant tension in life caused by our need for approval from others, and is this simply magnified when we step onto a stage because it comes into even sharper focus?

If this is the case, perhaps we are not looking in the right place when we seek solutions for ‘stage fright’ or ‘performance anxiety’.

Rather than trying to deal with the extreme aversion we have of speaking or performing publicly, should we be considering the equally present feeling of anxiety we live with constantly? Is it possible that dealing with the underlying cause of our everyday anxiety – this separation from our true self – is the answer to its more extreme outplay?

How different might it be if we honoured our children for who they are rather than how they perform?

Might we then be teaching them to appreciate themselves rather than what they do and just possibly, liberating them from a lifetime of the ‘performance anxiety’ that clearly plagues so many?

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