Stage Fright

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If only I had walked back on that stage… 

I used to keep questioning myself for a long time on the above “If” of my life and I have no answers. This used to make an ugly entrance in my thoughts every time I was up for a presentation or public speaking (ironically supposed to my significant strength).

I was 20 and was in the final round of extempore. I was really confident as I had racked up quite a few winning certificates in the past couple of years. I don’t know what happened. Maybe it was the saying “Pride comes before the fall” coming to life? I got the topic and I started off really well! And Bang! Before I know it, I have come to a pregnant pause. I am looking at those hundreds of people and I forget everything. I fumble. I grasp. And I walk-off. I went into a corner backstage and had this minor panic attack. What had just happened? My friends and professors were gobsmacked! Later, the judges offered a second chance and without knowing or understanding why, I refused.

And I never discussed those seconds with anyone. I am not sure if my parents were even aware of it.

The aftermath was, I stayed clear of the stage for almost a year. In my final semester, my professors convinced me to try one more time for a smaller event. It was a different me on the stage. Quiet and earnest – it did end up giving me a second place and the much-needed confidence boost.

But every time I faced an audience, the inside me was a deer caught in headlights. I tighten ed up with that awful swallowing feeling. I had to work hard to mute the scared voice and hit straight, for the sake of my team members and grades. My two years in university ensured I had enough time to contain the panic germ into a small corner. And three years into the corporate I am back in my element, albeit quiet and restrained.

I was attending a stand-up comic show with the line-up being a mix of first-timers and upcoming comedians. Through the two hour show, there were some brilliant, some cringe-worthy and some truly awful jokes shared and bantered around. While some made our tummies ache, some did not even deserve the customary crack on the smile. But being so close to the stage, I saw all the standard signs. The sweat on the brow, the flickering of eyes, the slight tremble of the fingers.

For a moment, I was 20 again when I had depended on the support from my friends and professors in the audience to attempt the hard climb back up to the stage and thrive. Which is why every comedian yesterday got a huge round of applause from us – at times, it is not the content that carries you to the next level but just the encouraging audience.

And it also brought back my nagging question to which I STILL have no answer. What if I had taken the second chance?

What would have happened then?


Linda has come up with a thoughtful prompt of “if/then” on her Stream of Consciousness Saturday!

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42 thoughts on “Stage Fright

  1. Those questions of “What if………………” (and similar) must be considered with simple logic which is… the question serves no practical purpose other than to open up different potential perspectives in case similar circumstances arise. Your time and mental energy would be better served by analyzing/exploring/researching the reason behind the initial experience, and then deciding whether you would consider putting yourself in that situation again. If yes, what preparation techniques could you use to reduce the stress; how will you deal with the inevitable residual stress level. Toastmasters organizations have been offering programs to present effective public presentations for many years and, while I do not believe that stress can ever be eliminated, there are ways to reduce the potential to a manageable level. All the best. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well said! Channeling the energy in action rather that the second-guessing game is a much better way. Toastmasters is definitely something I have given serious thought 🙂 Thank you for your wonderful words!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Yes, stage fear happens to me also before any presentation. I am still trying to rectify the same but not aware when it will go finally. 😦
    Read your post after a long time. Hope you are doing good ? 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I stammer when I speak to a group of people or even while presenting a small presentation to our management. So you are not alone, rather there are worse cases. I was on a stage once in my life and it ended very bad. Never been on a stage since then.

    They say that you need to be shameless sometimes and be ready to get beaten. I hope you go back to stage and face your fears. Easier said than done, but I guess public speaking is more of an acquired skill.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I would also tell you to try to go back to the stage… those presentations will definitely help! I did go back after that and well, I am definitely in a better place. Thanks for sharing 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh.. of second chances..
    mY fRiEnd Prjakta.. and
    an epic second chance
    of tale i have to tell and share..
    as when i was 13.. and performing
    Andrew Lloyd Webber’s SonG
    Jesus Christ Super Star as the
    young Autistic boy i was then..
    like a cat in a cage
    in a lightening
    storm of
    sensory
    overwhelmings
    that my nervous
    system back then
    in sight and sound
    and even touch was
    bloWing me up.. anyWay..
    i played it on the piano in
    a talent show.. and stumbled
    my way off stage and the crowd
    erupted in laughter over my
    obvious motor coordination
    difficulties.. and sure
    i could make this
    into an entire
    epic SUPER
    novel.. but to
    fast forward when
    i was over the age of
    30 and we went to my
    Niece Candie’s.. talent show at
    her middle school too.. oh.. decades
    later.. i was still as frightened inside
    just to watch it then as i was as a timid
    boy way back when.. fast forward to
    now.. and you kNow and FeeL the
    rest of the HiStory as throughly
    deTailed already on
    my blog..
    additionAlly..
    i can public speak
    now.. with no problem..
    Public Dance cured me
    of all
    ills
    of fear..
    Funny how
    liFe can change
    my friEnd.. for liGhter LiFe..
    and as Jack LaLanne SanG2
    when he toWed 60 plus boats
    across the bay just by the power
    of his swimming.. at
    yes.. age 60 plus..
    trUly NOW iT’s
    never too late
    to
    try
    try
    try
    aGaiN..
    and say i can
    i can i can and
    jUSt F iN do IT..
    iT worked for mE.. heHe..;)

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I have definitely experienced performance anxiety. A few years ago, I had to make an oral presentation for one of my classes and my mouth got so dry it was hard for me to speak clearly. I agree that if you want to get better at handling the anxiety it takes practice. I think you should not be hard on yourself about that one bad experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What if.. I guess we all face that. .that’s why the saying goes.. go for it..

    What’s the worst that can happen..reminds me of school days I was such a scary cat…
    And it was a miracle my first job was that of a computer instructor in India.. imagine me standing and trying to teach a class. Oh boy..

    But slowly day by day things started working and then I came to uk and joined the forces where each day u wad to.talk to so many people .. Every day

    So anything is possible especially when compared to ME.. If I can do it anyone can..😀😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Experience and practice is something that really takes that fear away – ignoring won’t work! Sounds like you had a fantastic journey yourself 🙂

      Like

  7. Life can be full of “What if I had…..” questions. What if I’d stuck it out in that life guard training? I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. Unless you want to get up on stage again at some point in the future. All kinds of possibilities are available to you. I think, at 60, I might be too old to be a lifeguard, though I do love to swim.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Well done 🙂
    I have never had stage fright, but I understand it. I still have the anxiety beforehand, but once I’m speaking, reading, singing, dancing, whatever, I’m okay. I know the struggle with it is real and common, so I feel badly you’ve been in that group. Don’t think about the old ‘failures’ when you’ve got a new ‘successes’ to focus on! Be kind to you! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It is a revelation for us. You never told us this incidence. But stage fright is very common Praj. I am happy that you are encouraging others to overcome this phenomenon.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Seems Toastmasters is just the stage for you, of which i am a proud member of!

    I was in your situation as a kid, but since then i have loved anchoring events (i was a lead anchor in Wipro in 2003, entertaining a crows of over 2,000 all alone). Now, i keep on working on my public speaking skills in my club. You can read my experience here:

    https://singhalalok.wordpress.com/2015/06/08/how-can-toastmasters-help-you/?iframe=true&preview=true/

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I freak out every time I have to perform in front of people. It takes a lot of courage to do so, Glad you were able to do it again on a small scale.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Does anyone truly like speaking in front of an audience? I guess you get used to it after a time but it’s always nerve wracking. I have a TV interview this coming Saturday, I am happy to say that it is a taped program so no live audience. Phew!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. One would never know, right? This is one of the magical qualities of real life; one will never know what would have happened if…Then again, if you had made that second attempt, you may have been left wondering the other what if 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Stage fright incidents are hard to forget. I still remember my first time on stage in the first grade, I was in a fancy dress competition and had to go on stage and say just one line but in front of the entire school!

    I went up there, all dressed up and even reached the microphone but went completely silent seeing the crowd. And then I just walked off without having uttered a word!

    Thanks for sharing this, I’ll do a post on my story too and about how one should never give up. Perseverance pays off!

    Great post Prajakta, I’ll be sure to tag you when I do my post on this. You’ve brought back some old bitter-sweet memories, cheers 😊👍

    Liked by 1 person

  15. This hits so close to home; you have no idea. The second I read the title, I knew I had to read this post. Can’t believe I had missed it before. But then, you always encounter things at just the right time. I was stuck just like that when I went for my first extempore competition two years back. I am confident in public speaking and being on stage, but I realize now that it was from that day on that competitions began to frighten me. And, I have been avoiding them all this while. Ah, reading this post gave me a “Eureka!” moment. I want to go back to being that me; that confident me who took part in competitions. I don’t want the opportunities to slip by me anymore. Ugh. I know I have it in me, but it’s so difficult going back and just forgetting the past. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. Inspiring would be an understatement. 🙂

    Like

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