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Why You Get Stage Fright and What to Do About It
April 30, 2021 at 4:00 AM
Why You Get Stage Fright and What to Do About It

You can thank your ancestors for stage fright. It really is their fault. But it’s also why they lasted long enough to ensure you are here.

What Causes Stage Fright

Stage fright, or performance anxiety, is nothing more than a flood of adrenaline pumping through your system. It is triggered the same way your most ancient ancestors felt flight or flight syndrome when they faced a dangerous, even life-threatening situation—a saber tooth tiger outside their hut or Visigoths or Huns storming their village.

In perceived dangerous situations, adrenaline floods through your body to help you make fast decisions and to act on those decisions. Fight or flight. You decide. Then you do it. Adrenaline helps you pull it off. It came in handy for your ancestors.

Unfortunately, part of your brain perceives things like public speaking, making a presentation, singing to an audience, talking on camera, going to a job interview, or briefing your boss as “dangerous” situations. The part of your brain that does that is called your reptile brain, the part that hasn’t evolved past identifying that when 1,000 Huns are storming the village it’s time to run like hell and get out of there. It’s the part of your brain designed too keep you alive. It doesn’t evaluate and consider that maybe the Huns will bring better farming tools or building skills and improve the village. It’s more like an on-off switch. Safe. Not safe. And when it flips on not safe mode the adrenaline flood goes open.

That’s why you get stage fright. The reason some people get more and others get less is just a DNA pass through. It all goes back to how your ancestors were wired.

How to Manage Stage Fright

Now that you know what causes it, you can do something about it.

Here is a three-step approach to managing your stage fright or performance anxiety.

  1. Accept that you will get it.
    • Everyone gets it to one degree or another. Remember, it’s there to serve you
  • Rename it
      • Most people think of it as fear. Instead, think of it as “fuel.” It will get you up for your presentation, your meeting, your performance. I