Fighting the Fright (or maybe not…)

“The world is a stage …” said Shakespeare, but he didn’t say anything about stage fright. He must have belonged to that rare section of the population who adored the idea of being stared by numerous eyes. I for one do not belong in that section. I’m not alone, if some surveys are to be believed, stage fright tops even the fear of death. Now that’s saying something.

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When you take up an assignment to get on the stage you think that you must push yourself, get out of your bubble, out of your comfort zone. You’re young and apparently fearless, so you enthusiastically agree- singing, recitation, speech – bring it on! All pumped up, you start working on the material. Easy as ABC, this is not even a challenge, you think. You practice and practice, in front of the mirror, in the shower, on the bus ( to the amusement of your fellow passengers). Then as days pass, you start feeling weird. It will start as a small itch in the caverns your mind. In the middle of watching a movie or eating, you panic “ what was the next line ..” you wonder inside.Then the feeling grows stronger, you only see one day on your calendar, you start measuring your time against that one day ( eg:-Sunday is three days after my speech, or my birthday is exactly 3 months and 4 days after my recitation etc.). As D- day draws closer you become restless, food means nothing to you, you dream of messing up and the people stabbing you with their cold stares. You wake up in the middle of the night to make sure you remember all the lines. You look for tips to combat stage fright – after all Google always has an answer. You get physical, emotional and philosophical tips. Breathing, no caffeine, distraction, “believe in your self”, no overthinking, “it doesn’t matter if you win or lose” – you by heart it all.

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You reach early to avoid additional stress, it is important to acclimatize with the ambiance of the entire room. The acclimatization goes wrong- when you see the audience- teachers who’ve high expectations, parents, friends, frenemies, and enemies – just everything you needed. You gulp, breath in, breathe out ..and all you see is disapproval and pity on the faces of the audience as you stand in the middle of the stage. Then the knots in the stomach start. “Where is the bathroom?” , you wonder. When that’s done you sweat like a pig and have not just butterflies, but the entire insect kingdom in your stomach ( You know insects constitute a class and not a kingdom, but you’re too flustered to recall basic biology ).

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By the time you realize that you better bolt, your name is called. The lights are too bright, the people too interested.  As you stand there your imagination runs wild enough for you to write a fantasy science fiction novel. You become desperate for your pillow, the warm bed and you curse your “ push yourself” self. Saying it was easy, but doing, not so. Then you start staring at the wall. You’re shaking like a leaf wondering if they can see your legs shaking. But then you’re surprised at yourself, everything’s going smooth.In fact, you caught sight of many nodding along, they’re enjoying it. Maybe you’ll win it, after all, maybe you’ll get a standing ovation or maybe……….gone!..still gone!… what’s the next line? You pause. No silence is more awkward or ugly in the world. ‘’ Do I run or apologize ? “ you wonder. How much will it hurt to be hit by a bus right now, not much you think. Then lightning strikes and the lines are back, somehow you finish it. They all clap. Was it a genuine clap you wonder, you feel that it was a little less enthusiastic. You’re relieved however, starting to think it’s not that bad. You pat yourself on the back for pushing yourself. Just then someone comes up to you, “ there ‘s this competition coming up, shall I sign you up ?“ they ask. “NO, NO, NO… not again ” screams a  little voice from inside, “please not again”. ‘’ Yes” you say. You’re all about pushing yourself, getting out of your comfort zone. The little voice sighs “ there goes this month’s sleep”.  Things will be different this time you convince yourself, after all, now you’re a bit more experienced. When is the competition you wonder, ah yes ! you remember- it’s exactly 16 days 22 hours, 15 minutes and 3 seconds from now.