St-st-stage fright; How I overcame the anxieties of speaking in public

Phillip Frields, Contributor
March 21, 2012
Filed under Opinion, Unphiltered

Eminem, arguably one of the greatest hip hop performers (of all time!), exhibited traits of stage fright in his movie “8 Mile” and song “Lose Yourself,” which was written for the film. The opening lyrics say it all: “Palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy… he’s nervous.” Even a man that has been on the top of the entertainment industry had what is said to be the number one fear in American adults today, according to Janet Esposito, author of many self-help and anti-anxiety books.

“America’s Got Talent” held an open casting call at the Downtown Plaza with KCRA news, channel 3, on March 10 for what they called “Sacramento’s Got Talent.” This event caused me to take my fear of public speaking and turn it upside down. Every common feeling overcame me that day: hastened heartbeat, cold sweats, jitters in my voice, everything, but it was now or never. Today we’re talking about stage fright and, perhaps more importantly, what extents it can take to battle it, better prepare for it, and overcome it.

Forgetfulness is one of many symptoms of stage fright, according to Esposito, and one easy way to get over that aloof hump is to take it on. “While a person can often successfully avoid situations that require public speaking or performing, the avoidance behavior itself actually worsens the fear,” says Esposito.

As frustrating as it was, it took two very simple things that still help me today: perseverance and practice. Proof positive that good things can come from making a goal and sticking to it.

The worst bit of anxiety came when I looked around and realized that everyone else waiting in line was half my age and height. How am I going to compete against a bunch of cute kids?

It’s not like kicking them in the pants is a viable option.

I’m really awful when it comes to speaking in public. I’m much more comfortable being the slacker in the back of the room yelling things that I probably shouldn’t say at all. It comes easy to me, but turning that would be humor into something worth listening to while performing on stage was overbearingly frightening for a long time.

The natural anxieties would overcome me, no matter the crowd size, and I would often times forget entire bits. This almost happened at the audition, but I swallowed my fear and gave it everything I had.

Don’t take a bad experience you may have as proof that you can’t speak in public. Whether it’s a performance or important meeting, whatever may cross your path that you flopped on the first time could still be for you.

Don’t you remember what you learned in “The Little Engine That Could,” or have you forgotten the ageless adage?

“I think I can… I think I can… I can!”

Ladies and gentlemen, keep at it and you just might too.


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