Opinion: She ain’t scared of no folks

Stage fright, a phenomenon of cumulative social pressure and the expectations and judgements of a crowd of people, is an interesting concept.

It is considered a major barrier to many performing arts where the main venue is a stage in front of a live crowd.

I remember the first time I sang on a stage, the first time I broke a stack of bricks for a demonstration, the first time I got up the courage to play a guitar in front of an audience, and while there was a certain apprehensive excitement, none of those situations seemed to deserve the sort of fear that I’d heard about.

I’ve decided it is a matter of perspective. Orienting the situation as it compares to other experiences is a trick that I do all the time and it helps me push myself to do new things that, excitingly, are a little uncomfortable.

A perspective that I find useful in illuminating and overcoming the fear of standing in front of a socially dangerous situation, is comparing it to the experience of standing in front of a more physically dangerous crowd — or perhaps a better term is herd.

Long before I ever put myself out in front of a bunch of people, who really only want to be entertained, I had to learn to put myself out in front of a bunch of cattle who really only wanted to not be there at all. In both cases, an attitude of self-assurance and control makes everything work. But in one situation, the immediately likely consequence of being unconvincing is that they don’t cheer. In the other situation, they will run you over if they don’t find you suitably impressive.

I’m not gonna say that folks ought to have to be put out in front of an uncompassionate mob of animals that outweigh you, can outrun you, and outnumber you 100 to one. But I am saying that a room full of 15 skeptical humans just isn’t the same level of intimidating if you’ve gotten comfortable working cows.

But if you need to get over that thing they call stage fright, maybe this perspective will give you a little boost. And if that doesn’t work, go be a cowboy for a little while and see how scary people are then.

Audra Brown will stand up to just about anything. Contact her at 2e@al-brown.com