As a child and through my teens I was painfully shy and the very idea of speaking in front of people or being the centre of attention in any way terrified me! I now perform in front of thousands of people on a regular basis (whether they want me to or not) so here’s my advice for dealing with fear.
Facing your fear is obviously easier said than done but I made a decision when I was about 19 that I had let fear hold me back enough and I wasn’t going to be scared of things anymore. I was scared of heights so I did parachute jumps and took up rock climbing, I was scared of fire so I learned how to do fire-eating and then there was the most terrifying thing of all… women! But I managed to get over that and actually started asking out the ones I fancied rather than my previous approach – saying and doing nothing at all! It was about this time that I started performing for people and eased myself into entertaining larger and larger crowds.
So, if you’re scared of spiders maybe go to a petting zoo where they have creepy crawlies or if you’re scared of public speaking perhaps attend networking events where you have to talk about yourself for a minute. Fear only exists in your head and once you realise that nothing REALLY bad is going to happen it makes it easier to face that fear over and over. Oh, but if you’re scared of being shot in the face don’t get over it by shooting yourself in the face! Admittedly you won’t be scared afterwards but that’s because you’ll be dead! Some things you’re supposed to be scared of.
When we know we’re going to be doing something that scares us sometimes it can really dwell on our mind. When I was putting on my first big theatre show the week running up to it was spent worrying that I’d forgotten something, that people weren’t going to show up or that all kinds of things were going to go wrong. The more I thought about it the more the fear was amplified as it went round and round in an ever increasing circle in my mind. What I found was the best way to deal with this type of situation was to go for a run, or a swim or any kind of exercise really. So the next time you are dreading that scary thing that you have to do in a few days, maybe just go for a walk or put on that workout video and the mixture of distraction and endorphins will help you keep the fear under control or at least stop it running down your leg.
Sometimes you’ve just got to fake it until you make it! One of my first entertainment jobs was warming up a crowd of 2,500 people with nothing but my personality – talk about a baptism of fire! Up until that point I’d spent most of my time in the background of the show but now I had to step up and be one of its ‘stars’. I was obviously pretty nervous beforehand but that day I learned that if you act confident people will have confidence in you and you will become confident. So if you’re worried about having to give a speech or about meeting your partner’s parents for the first time don’t react by mumbling and staring at your feet just pretend you’re Robert Downey Junior! If anything goes wrong or something unexpected happens don’t crumble, just laugh it off and people will laugh with you.
Having confidence that you’ve done everything you can to prepare for whatever situation you are going to have to face is also a good way to keep fear at bay. So practice that presentation properly actually wearing whatever you’re going to wear, with the big screen, the clicker and anything else you’re going to use; work hard on the training ground so that on matchday you know you’re fully prepared and actually practice what you’re going to say to that person you’ve always wanted to ask out. Prior preparation prevents p!&$ poor performance (try saying that after a few pints!).
I still get nervous before shows, I’m still apprehensive before performing for my first close-up audience at a gig and when I’m doing something new I can be worried about it for days beforehand. But by using the steps above I have become a performer who exudes confidence and isn’t afraid to try new things and if you do the same you can overcome whatever scares you too.
Can you think of any other ways to combat fear? Do you disagree with my advice? Let me know in the comments and as always please like and share. Finally, remember: a life lived in fear is a life half-lived.