Redefining Fear as a Performer

Fear is a safety mechanism and it is YOU protecting yourself. But what if the fear is out of control?

This video is all about changing your relationship with fear. Suppressing it doesn't work, but this does. Take a listen....

Podcast 37 - Redefining Fear

The Courageous Performer Podcast

Redefining Fear as a Performer

If you would like to learn how to let go and perform brilliantly, so that you can feel confident (even without being able to guarantee the outcome!) then go to to find out how to work with me.

Read the episode transcript here:

[00:00:00] Today I want to talk to you about redefining fear because fear is what so many people come to me to talk about. The idea that they have become or have always been afraid of performing. But as my kids like to say, and I love this, no one's afraid of heights. People aren't afraid of falling.

They're afraid of hitting the ground. And fear is actually our friend. It's a mechanism designed to help keep us safe, so it's a response that we have to thoughts we have about our environment and what is going on in our environment. And those thoughts trigger fight, flight, freeze and adrenaline to be pumped into our bodies.

As I say, it's all designed to keep you safe. We don't want to turn off the fear response, but what we do want to do is make it proportional. That's [00:01:00] where things can go really wrong because fear of public speaking, I've heard it referred to as evolutionary, that everyone is naturally afraid of public speaking.

I don't believe that's true because I think there are too many people out there who just simply aren't afraid of public speaking. Not everybody is afraid of performing. What people are afraid of is what might go wrong.

Other people's judgment of them when they perform. So we're not afraid of performing. We're not afraid of public speaking, but we are afraid of the implications of that if it goes wrong, just like we're not afraid of heights, we're afraid, of falling? Not even that, we're afraid of hitting the ground. We're afraid of what might go wrong.

And so often when these fears arise, you're taught to suppress them. You're taught not to worry, that it'll all be okay. And that is kind of ignoring our natural response because we don't want to turn off that fear [00:02:00] response. We want to make it proportional. And we can feel like we're going to die on stage.

It can feel existential. But it isn't. Even if it's career threatening, it's not the level of existential of a saber toothed tiger. And actually, it's not about when things go wrong in performing, it's more about our response to things going wrong. Can we manage if things go wrong? Because we're never going to achieve perfection.

Everything going absolutely 100 percent right through an entire performance. It's just not possible and if it does happen, it would be an entire fluke because that's not how things work. What does matter is how we respond and fear gets in the way of us responding flexibly. If it is, if we're in our limbic system, if we're in fight, flight, freeze, it's not as easy to use our prefrontal cortex to make [00:03:00] wise choices.

We just want to respond. No, we want to react rather than respond. We, we have this fight, flight, freeze reaction. So what I teach is to understand what it is you're actually afraid of. If you're not afraid of the height, What are you afraid of? You're afraid of hitting the ground. You're afraid of forgetting your words.

What's the reason you're afraid of forgetting your words? Because you worry what people will think of you. People will think of you as unprofessional. You're worried about your voice cracking because people will think you're not good enough. You're worried about the judgment and not getting a role or a job.

What will happen if you don't get that role or job? If you make it high stakes and it feels high stakes, then you will be feeding into that fear. If you understand what you're really afraid of and go, Okay, can I cope [00:04:00] with the worst case scenario? If the worst were to happen, what would I do? And even then, if the worst case scenario is absolutely appalling to you, give yourself the choice.

Do I still want to do it? I know that this is what's at stake. Do I still want to do it? Because that question empowers you, it empowers you to choose to do it or to choose not to do it. But if you then choose to do it knowing the risk, then you can start to recognise that you're being courageous. You can start to recognise that this is a good, brave, courageous thing to do and you'll go on feeling courageous rather than fearful.

If you try and push those fears aside, you kind of bottle them up and they don't disappear. They just come out through your body and the fear response actually gets worse. So understand what it is you're truly afraid [00:05:00] of and if that were to happen, what would you do? If you were to forget your words. What would you do?

Would you, if you were singing a song, pause and start again? Would you make up the words? Um, if you're public speaking, would you ad lib? There are all these different solutions, but if you never ask yourself, What am I afraid of? You don't give yourself scope to find solutions in the moment. This also plays into this idea of Fear can come out of you predicting the worst.

So often people will predict the worst in their performances so they can be prepared for what goes wrong. I'm not suggesting that. Because that creates fear. If you say to a child who's going out for a walk, oh yes, but watch out for vicious dogs and watch out for the cars that are speeding down the road and don't talk to strangers, um, because they might abduct you in [00:06:00] their van and, um, watch out because it's going to be cold and wet and miserable.

If you tell them all the things that could go wrong, and I'm not saying don't keep your children safe and teach them keep safe stuff, absolutely do, but if you go, go out and not say go out and have fun, but go out, but watch out for this, this, this, this, this, this, and this, how will that child feel going out? In the same way if you think about your performance and say, yes, I've got to remember to do this, to stop this happening, to do this, to stop this happening.

Watch out for that. I'll watch out for this. Watch out for that. Then you'll feel exactly the same way as about your performing as the child might do going out into that scary world. If instead you trust your ability to cope in the moment and say, well, if the words, if I forget the words, this is what I'll do.

And you, instead go about it the other way, What is my biggest fear? Let me solve that. Rather than let me seek out fears to have. [00:07:00] Then you can go, actually, I'll be alright. I was talking to someone a long time ago, and they said they'd been driving across the desert, uh, thinking about all the things that could go wrong, and then when something did go wrong, they were prepared because they'd already thought about this.

But they could have thought about it in the moment. If they were capable of coming up with a solution three hours ahead of what they did, of when it went wrong, then they're capable of coming up with a solution when it goes wrong. They're the same person with the same thought processes. And all they did was make that three hour journey less enjoyable because they were thinking about all the things that went wrong.

In the same way, if you think about all the things that can go wrong in your performance and you seek them out, you'll make your performance less enjoyable. However, if there's a particular thing you're worried about going wrong, ask yourself what you will do if that particular thing goes wrong. Make a solution because then you know you can go out [00:08:00] there feeling prepared, and, and actually if you forget your words and have to start over again, or if you forget your words and start to ad lib.

Will your audience really damn you? I know people who've won competitions singing the wrong words. I know people who've got through interviews saying ridiculous things. I know people who've been public speaking, myself included, who've said stuff and gone, I actually Hold on, my words didn't come out right, or I said the wrong thing there.

I've got through workshops where I've suddenly gone, hold on, hold on, hold on. I've gone off on the wrong track. Let me get back on track. Your audience are far more forgiving than you are for yourself. So, remember, your fears are a protective mechanism that comes out as a response to the thoughts you are having about your situation.

If you first and foremost, understand that it is a natural. It's not something that comes from outside that hijacks you. It's something that's within you that's natural and [00:09:00] normal. Then start to understand the thoughts that are triggering that response. And there's my dog shaking himself. And, and then you can understand what your fears are.

By understanding what your fears are, you can then look to strategise as to how you might cope if your worst fears happen. Because I bet you, you'll discover, oh Jakey, that it's all going to be okay. And you won't die on stage. And that is the way to reduce the fear. By realising it's just a performance.

I'm Hattie Voelcker from Find Your True Voice. Thank you so much for listening.