Fear helps you perform – Is that true?

A lot of singers believe that fear can give them an edge, and can help drive them forward to achieve everything they want. But is this true?

In this video I show you why I believe this isn’t true and how you can exchange fear for something more effective and enjoyable.

Blog Transcript

Hi I’m Hattie Voelcker from Find Your True Voice and what I want to talk to you about today is fear because it’s something that comes up for an awful lot for my clients.

The two things they most commonly say about fear is

  1. that fear gets helps them get things done, and
  2. that fear gives them an edge when they’re performing, helps them focus.

I want to look at those two statements, to pull them apart to see if we can see whether that’s true.

Does fear help you perform?

This is something I’ve thought a lot about, partly because of the name of my online program The Fearless Performer. Is it a good thing to be a fearless performer or do we want some of that fear? I’ve ummed and aahed and sometimes I thought it’s a good thing. These days I don’t believe that fear is a good thing, and I’ll explain why. First let me take the two statements in order:

  1. “Fear helps me get things done.”

Well there is absolutely no doubt, as a recovering last-minute merchant, that fear helps me get things done. The question is, is it the best way? I’ve talked a lot about this, in fact I did a series earlier on procrastination (you can take a look at that if you want I’ll put the link alongside this video). For me it’s about the idea that, yes I can drive myself to do stuff. In fact what I’ve worked out is that I’m a last-minute merchant because I usually worry about doing things well enough, and I only get things done at the point where the fear of not getting it done outweighs the fear of doing it badly! Suddenly I just have to get it done.

If you think of yourself like a child, if you were to shout and scream at a child and use fear to get them to get things done, then they’re not doing it willingly and they’re not doing it in a way that they have ownership of it and the next time they do it they might even feel worse about it. It’s the same for us, we might be able to drive ourselves to do it but it adds to that feeling of tension that comes with it. For me fear is not the most effective way of getting things done, although it certainly can be effective, in the longer term it has far too many negative side effects.

  1. “Fear gives me an edge when performing.”

The second aspect is the idea that fear gives you the edge when performing. If you think about the chemicals that are released when you have fear, all that adrenaline, your pupils dilate, the blood goes to your limbs, and you get blood pumping, your heart rate goes up and that does give you extra focus. The reality is that physiologically there’s very little difference between fear and excitement. The thing is excitement brings that focus too, when we’re really excited we can be focused.

What fear has that excitement doesn’t, is all the negative thoughts that can preoccupy our brain and it really kicks our limbic system into gear so we disengage our prefrontal cortex and it’s much harder for us to problem solve often, when we’re in a state of fear. What we want is the chemicals that gives us focus, what we don’t want is all those negative thoughts that get in the way of us performing at our best and there’s been lots of research done to show you can actually convert your feeling of fear into a feeling of excitement because the difference between those two things are merely the thoughts that go with them. If we go on stage thinking “I’m really excited about this,” “All this adrenaline pumping is not my fear it’s my excitement,” and label it differently you’d be amazed at what it can achieve.

I think nerves, slight nerves, are a natural thing within performing, especially when we want to do well, and it’s important that we want to do well because if we’re standing on stage performing and we don’t care then perhaps go do something else with your life, but performers you all care about your singing. So standing up and caring about doing a good performance is the natural precursor to a few nerves, but when that tips into fear then you get this negative cycle of thoughts. If you turn those nerves into excitement and say “I’m really excited about doing a good job, I’m really excited about what I can give my audience,” then you still get that adrenaline without all those negative thoughts. So if you could think about how you view fear at the moment and what impact it has on you and then the idea of turning that round, turning around to the idea that fear doesn’t, or it does get you to achieve things, but it’s not the best way to get you to achieve things, and the other thing that fear isn’t what gives you the edge but it’s those chemicals that we want that excitement can give you then think about what you would like to change about how you approach your performing.

Here is a link to the first video in the series on procrastination: