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The Roots of Stage Fright and How to Deal With It

At its most basic level, stage fright is the fear of performing. This can manifest as a fear of public speaking, acting, singing, dancing, or any other activity that requires you to perform in front of other people. This can take place in in-person performances and performances in front of a camera. 

Most people have had some experience of stage fright in their lives. Depending on your personality, mental health, profession, and other factors, stage fright can be an occasional issue or one that persistently affects your quality of life. No matter the situation, it can be helpful to understand what stage fright is, how it affects you, and what you can do about it. 

Why do we have stage fright?

Stage fright is often a form of social phobia. This is a fear about how others may perceive or judge you and what that means about you. The reasons for stage fright often depend on the person. 

Fear of performing can be based in several feelings and beliefs. These can include fear of rejection, an unrealistic assessment of what is expected of you, or an internal belief that you are not capable of what you are trying to do. In some cases, stage fright can even be related to anxiety disorders. 

Symptoms of Stage Fright

Different people will experience different symptoms from stage fright. These might include a sensation of butterflies in your stomach, greater sweating than usual, or even intense symptoms like difficulty speaking, hyperventilating, or physical illness. These symptoms often arise because the body believes that it is in danger, eliciting unconscious reactions from the nervous system. 

How to Overcome Stage Fright

Stage fright is notoriously hard to overcome. Even people who perform for a living may still struggle with stage fright. This is not surprising; it is normal and healthy for the body to experience stress when it senses a dangerous situation. But, while it likely won’t be possible to eliminate stage fright, there are steps you can take to improve it. 

Prioritize Your Health

While we often think of the brain and body as separate, it is essential to remember that the brain is an organ. This is the reason that a feeling of fear can produce physical symptoms. It also means that your physical health can impact your mental health. 

When preparing for a situation that will give you stage fright, make sure to prioritize both your physical and mental health. Eating healthy, incorporating exercise into your routine, and getting enough sleep can help decrease the intensity of your stage fright. In addition, caring for your mental health with practices like mindfulness, meditation, and therapy can help you deal with stage fright and other stressful situations. 

Address Underlying Issues

Feelings of stage fright often have their roots in issues like a lack of self-confidence, measuring your self-worth based on the opinions of others, or fear of social rejection. Taking time to address these underlying issues can help both your stage fright and your general mental health in the long run. It can also be helpful to think about why you are performing and focus on that rather than the fears you have around it. 

Understanding these events will help you tremendously in this process.  Once you learn some more about speaking engagements and understand how to prepare and what you should do during the event, it will remove any fear of failure, rejection, or judgment from others. For instance, if you are giving a presentation, understand the topic well, prepare your slides with detailed notes, and practice your delivery beforehand.  Knowing that you have put in the effort to be prepared can boost your confidence and alleviate some of the fear associated with stage fright. 

Prepare for Your Performances

Make sure you feel prepared in advance of your performance. One critical aspect of preparation is ensuring that you have enough practice with your material, whether a speech, a script, a song, or some other type of performance. 

It’s also essential to prepare yourself mentally and physically. This can look different based on your fears and needs. If you feel intense stress, try breathing exercises to calm your nervous system, get a pep talk from a friend, or let your nervous energy out through movement. While you may not control all the factors in your environment, a little extra self-care can go a long way towards helping ease your stage fright. 

How Stereotypes Can Affect Mental Health

Stereotypes can affect mental health in a variety of ways. For example, being stereotyped can cause people to behave differently or develop negative beliefs about themselves. Stereotypes can even shape how people deal with mental health issues, impacting their likelihood of developing mental disorders and whether they feel comfortable seeking help. 

We can all probably think of a few stereotypes off the top of our heads. Stereotyping is a widespread behavior, often done to assess social situations quickly and easily. In psychology, stereotypes refer to fixed, generalized beliefs about groups of people. Stereotypes can be both positive and negative, although negative stereotypes tend to be more common. 

Where do Stereotypes Come From?

We often use stereotypes, both consciously and unconsciously, to make sense of the world around us. In a world where we have to process an enormous amount of social stimuli, this makes it easier for us to react quickly to new people and situations. This tendency to categorize people has often been exploited by governments and other power structures which use it to turn one group of people against another. 

How Can Stereotypes Affect Mental Health?

Stereotypes are often part of larger societal beliefs, power structures, and historical processes. As such, stereotypes can affect the opportunities people have access to, their values and ideas, and how they feel about themselves. 

Stereotype Threat

The idea of stereotype threat refers to a situation in which a person fears that they may inadvertently confirm a negative stereotype. Studies have shown that people perform differently on tests when reminded of stereotypes around themselves. 

This happens because of the anxiety and emotional distress that people experience when worrying about these stereotypes. If a person finds themselves in situations where they are stereotyped frequently, this can impact their overall mental health.  

Self-Stereotyping

Stereotypes can have significant impacts on the way that people see themselves. Negative stereotypes can lead to lower self-confidence, limiting beliefs, and even mental health issues. For example, a UK report found gender stereotypes to be one of the root causes of issues with body image and eating disorders among women and rising suicide rates among men. 

Stereotypes About Mental Health

While stereotypes can impact a person’s likelihood of developing mental health disorders, they can also affect how people deal with mental health issues. For example, people often avoid seeking mental health treatment due to the stigma surrounding many mental health conditions. In addition, stereotypes can also impact people’s comfort levels when engaging in healthy coping mechanisms such as mindfulness, counseling, and speaking about emotional issues. 

In addition, negative stereotypes within a gender, culture, age, or other groups can discourage people in that group from seeking mental health treatment. People may avoid acknowledging and dealing with mental health issues out of a fear of being ostracized or excluded from their identity groups. 

Addressing the Impact of Stereotypes

In order to address the negative impact that stereotypes can have on ourselves and others, it’s essential to examine our own biases. Many of us have internalized stereotypes about ourselves and others without even realizing it. Once you start to examine the stereotypes present in the world around you, you can begin to challenge harmful thought patterns, understand the impacts of stereotypes, and help others harmed by negative stereotypes. 

About the author:

Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.

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