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  • Writer's pictureNicholas Pallesen

The Shortest Performance Anxiety Book Ever

Updated: Jan 30, 2020

For years, my clients have asked me to write a book about overcoming performance anxiety/stage fright so more people could have access to the fresh perspective I share on conquering nerves. While I always thought it was a good idea, I never felt the inner nudge to write it.⠀ I wonder now if there was a deeper wisdom behind that hesitation. My own thinking on performance anxiety has evolved often over the 15+ years I've been coaching performers and creatives. As I've come to see more about how our experience of life is actually created and who we truly are, I've noticed seismic shifts in my perspective particularly in the past 18 months, to the point where I often find myself disagreeing with things I taught just a few months ago!

Now, I'm not sure I'll ever write a book on overcoming performance anxiety. Not because I fear it would be outdated within weeks of publication, but because if I were to write a book today, it would only be one page. And I'm pretty sure no one would want to pay $9.99 for a one page e-book on Amazon! 😂⠀ Why so short? Because performance anxiety now looks incredibly straightforward to me:⠀ "Performance Anxiety" is simply the feeling we get when we've forgotten we're going to be okay no matter what.⠀ That's it. You don't feel nervous because:

  • You're not working hard enough

  • You're not doing the right mental hacks and need better ones

  • You haven't performed enough and just need to do it more

  • You lack "mental toughness"

  • You care

  • You don't actually care or love what you're doing

  • You're fundamentally broken in some way⠀

You've just temporarily forgotten. That's all. You've gotten caught up in that old trick of the mind (and tons of social conditioning) that says that what we achieve or what people think of us on the outside defines who we are on the inside.⠀ You've forgotten that making mistakes, people not liking us, or not winning a job only means we made mistakes, people didn't like us, or we didn't win a job. Full stop. It means nothing about us and has zero impact on who we really are. ⠀ And it's OK if you've forgotten, by the way. We all do it sometimes! Even me, and I teach this everyday! 😊

But I can hear you asking right now, "Got it! So how do I make sure I don't forget? And what should I do to cope with the nerves?" Well, I don't think we can do anything to make sure we never forget. Nor do I think we need to find a way to manage or conquer our nerves. But we can get clear for ourselves on where wellbeing actually comes from and what those feelings we call "stage fright" are actually trying to tell us. Seeing more about those things, in a funny way, makes the two questions above irrelevant.

Here's what I've seen about wellbeing, friends: NO outcome makes or breaks you. Your self-worth doesn't go up or down based on anything you do or don't do "out there".⠀ Worthiness isn't an achievement. It's your birthright. You're walking around right now with okayness oozing from every pore. You were valid long before you could even speak the word.⠀ Now because you're human, you still might forget sometimes! That's okay. Luckily, the Universe foresaw this and made sure we'd all have a built-in alarm clock called "feelings" to wake us up when we forget. See, stage fright has never been your enemy. It's just looked that way, and we've thus learned to fear nerves and try desperately to "fix" them, because we've innocently misunderstood what they were actually trying to tell us. But "performance anxiety" isn't a "you" flaw. To me, "nerves" are actually our innate wisdom gently tapping us on the shoulder, alerting us that we're looking outside for the wellbeing we already have and are. It's the voice of our true Self saying "Hey, love. Win or lose, you're good. You've got this." But please don't take my word for it. If this sounds too simple or too good to be true, that's okay! But if you sense there might be something worth exploring in this, awesome! I invite you to put down the idea you need to "do" something to "get" what I'm pointing to here and just allow yourself to wonder where wellbeing actually comes from. Is it found in what we do, or in who we are? Look to your own experience and see if you've come out the other side of rejection and challenges, even when you feared you wouldn't bounce back.

Also, get curious about the belief that nerves are an enemy you must wage war with. Is that actually True? Or have we just learned that? How cool would it be if you were capable of showing up and doing your thing, regardless of how you're feeling? Good news: You are. It just takes a willingness to be open to the possibility that the only actual problem with nerves is thinking they're a problem.

You're playing with the house's money, friends. You've got nothing to lose. And when you really see that for yourself? Watch out, world! Here you come ❤️


Curious about the things I share here, and interested in a fresh perspective on mental health and performance psychology? Follow me on Instagram!


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