How To Overcome Performance Anxiety: Advice From Leeds Magician Kristian Treen
Updated: Nov 27, 2019
We've all been there. At some point in our lives, we all suffer from that crippling feeling of performance anxiety.
Trust me, I get it. I've been performing magic and public speaking since I was 14 and I've had my fair share of battles with performance anxiety.
The following 7 techniques are what I've found to be the most useful in overcoming performance anxiety and doing whatever it is you want to do.
1. IT'S ALL IN YOUR HEAD
Everything starts from within. It's easy to get carried away with negative thoughts and become accustomed to expecting the worst. But when overcoming performance anxiety you need to understand that you are against yourself. You fear that you are not good enough. You stress over worst-case scenarios and this constant obsessing dominates your mind. But you need to understand that it's all in your head.
Whatever it is that's causing your anxiety, whether it be feeling nervous for a presentation or apprehensive about a speech, it's all going to be okay. Trust me, I've been in that headspace. To truly overcome performance anxiety, you need to understand that your mind is just messing with you. Your mind wants to keep you safe. It perceives the thing you are worried about as a massive threat. Feel the fear and act anyway, that's my best piece of advice in overcoming performance anxiety.
2. EMBRACE YOUR OWN MORTALITY
One day, we are all going to die. I'm not saying this to depress you. I'm saying this to provide you with perspective. When you feel performance anxiety rearing its ugly head, remind yourself of this fact. It's okay to be scared. It's okay to feel nervous, or not good enough or whatever. But when you truly embrace life, when you truly understand that, one day, you will not be here, then you can truly live.
Life is short. Pursue your passions, do everything that you want to do. Tomorrow is never guaranteed to embrace life and all its difficulties and I promise you, everything will work out just fine. You just need to make the decision to live as you please and not allow performance anxiety to dictate your happiness.
3. HUM AND SMILE
This is a weird little trick that works wonders for me whenever I slip into that performance anxiety mindset. Whenever you feel nervous or anxious about doing something, hum a tune to yourself. The tune itself is irrelevant. Just hum to yourself and keep doing it. I do this regularly and I find it relaxes me. Combine this melodious hum with a smile on your face and its as if you are tricking your mind into believing that there is nothing to be scared of.
I've been doing this for several months now and it's great. So the next time you feel those performance anxiety feelings, put a smile on your face and do a little hum and see for yourself the difference it makes.
4. FIND THE ROOT CAUSE
What's actually causing your performance anxiety. A bit of self-reflection can go along way in allowing you to master your performance anxiety. Search within yourself to discover the root cause. Perhaps its a fear of rejection. Perhaps its a fear of judgement. Perhaps its a fear of public humiliation. Maybe its all of the above. Its really important that you find out the why. Once you know why you feel the way you do, overcoming performance anxiety becomes a lot easier as you now know the root cause.
5. IT'S A PROCESS
Overcoming performance anxiety doesn't happen overnight - at least not for me anyway. Even to this day, after performing magic at countless events and speaking in front of thousands upon thousands of people, I still get those twinges of performance anxiety. It's totally normal. Don't feel like you are alone. Don't feel like you are weird for feeling the way you feel.
We are all human and we all feel these emotions. Overcoming performance anxiety is a process you have to commit to. You never reach a point where it is completely gone and that's okay. It's something you need to develop on a daily basis in order to be able to manage it better. It's not about eradication. It's about acceptance. Accept those feelings and allow them to be there. When you try and rid yourself of all these feelings that you don't want to feel, it intensifies their hold over you. Accept performance anxiety for what it is - just a feeling. With time, it will become more and more manageable. Take it from someone who knows, it will get better and you will overcome it.
6. TALK ABOUT IT
Ah, how great it is to talk freely about performance anxiety. Unfortunately, it's not a conversation many of us want to have. We feel ashamed to discuss such things with our friends and family in case they see us as weak or incapable. You need to stop ALL of that. Talk your anxiety through with people who are close to you. Maybe they can help you find the root cause! Announce your anxiety, Tell people how you feel.
A lot of performances anxiety's power comes from keeping it to ourselves. I've done countless public speeches, in my earlier years where I have told my audience, in a light-hearted way, that I'm feeling pretty nervous right now. People don't care. It takes guts to be able to be vulnerable and people, on a deep subconscious level, appreciate other peoples vulnerability. So, the next time you feel anxious, let people know.
7. DELVE INTO DISCOMFORT
Find what scares you and do more of it. Run towards fear. The more you expose yourself to the thing that provokes your anxiety, the easier it's going to be to overcome it. Be courageous and act in spite of fear. The worst thing you can do to yourself is avoid the thing that's making you scared. Avoidance is the enemy. If public speaking makes you anxious, do more of it. If performing in-front of a big crowd fills you with dread, perform more in-front of big crowds.
It's all about teaching your mind that it has nothing to fear. Over time and with persistence, the things you fear now will become second-nature.
So that's my 7 tips on overcoming performance anxiety. I really hope you found value in this. If this post has helped you in any way then feel free to leave a comment and let me know.
As someone who has struggled with bouts of performance anxiety from a young age, I'm here to tell you that we're all gonna make it and everything will work out the way you want it to. If you have any questions or would like to discuss performance anxiety further then, by all means, send me an email or a direct message on social media and I will be more than happy to chat. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and I wish you all the best.