Here it is, my deepest fear..
I’ve always been scared of being in front of people. It has been my monster.
Growing up, my family was always artistic but not in a live performance kind of way so my sister and I didn’t really learn to perform in front of audiences. We were just average kids who occasionally performed a piano recital. I would often watch shows of my favorite artists and think, how does anyone ever grow confident enough to stand in front of people and do that. I even took a public speaking course in college where we were graded on how well we delivered speeches in front of a large auditorium of peers. I can still remember sinking deep inside myself as if to watch from a third person view. I would pretend to be someone else, someone more confident and outgoing just to get through it without nervously shaking and choking on the words. For years I was able to let this fear grow because I never thought I would have an occupation where I would have to face it. I never thought I would stand before a crowd again like a nervous diver about to plunge into the dark waters of potential scrutiny.
As things turned out I decided to pursue the one thing that I feared the most. I chased it while really feeling like my lack of experience and confidence disqualified me from performing live music. I remember asking the first band I ever played with to run cables into a back room so that I could play keyboards without being seen. This insecurity was so paralyzing back then. It would make me physically ill, the kind of ill that makes you question why the heck you would ever put yourself through something like that. As a result of the constant pre-show sickness I found myself over thinking my fear so much that it developed into compounding fears. Things like, what it if I got over the stage fright but started enjoying the attention too much? What would that mean about my character if I just wanted to be seen? If I start to enjoy it will my love for the art just fall victim to my own vanity?
Then one day my band forced me to sing backup vocals last minute for an industry showcase. I still remember the smell of the metal as the mic was positioned in front of me for the first time. I couldn’t have imagined a more terrifying way to be thrust into my own spiral of dread. All those label people with dozens of years of experience watching my every movement, listening to what I can only imagine were faint shrills from my never before heard lungs trying to hide behind the music. The experience was excruciating but somehow made it easier to sing in front of normal crowds. After that, I developed a lot of confidence in playing my instrument solely based on the fact that singing was now more intimidating. I was given experience singing at churches based on a simple lack and need basis. At first even that was really hard because of everyones expectations. Some people were overly encouraging and some would say things to me like “Maybe this just isn’t your thing”. It was there I learned a lot about being confident regardless of preferences and opinions.
Over the years things have gotten much better. The fear has gone from a pounding headache to a dull roar. Every time our band starts a show it’s still there, but anymore it quickly turns into an excitement to share songs that I really believe in. My point in sharing this is that hopefully it encourages someone who deals with this type of dread, panic and anxiety to keep on pushing through. These things are never easy to face and usually don’t go away as fast as we would like them to. Sometimes no amount of outside assurance can talk you down from your self-doubt but know that it can and will change if you keep doing it. For me, standing in front of people no longer feels like the beast it used to be.
Do the things that scare you the most! Conquered fear turns into confidence and that might be one of the most rewarding things you can experience.