I used to get stage fright before some gigs. Then I stopped drinking. Now I get stage fright before all gigs. And love it.
I used to look at the more experienced people I was working with while I was feeling stage fright and presume they weren’t feeling it. They were professional. I was unprofessional.
It took me years to work out that for me, feeling (almost unbearably) nervous is what it feels like to be inside my body while I’m caring intensely about what’s about to happen. It’s actually professional.
I know it sounds like mumbo-jumbo, but now I treat that feeling like friend. Alright, a business acquaintance. Giving me a pep-talk. It hasn’t gone away, but I’ve come to associate it with good things.
I think what happens is this. Early on (whether it’s stand-up, job interviews, public speaking, life in general…) you get nervous, you have a hard, learning experience (not because of the nerves, because you’re new!) and as this repeats over time, you come to associate that edgy feeling with bad experiences.
Unfortunately, if you’re growing, learning experiences never go away. I find any time I think I’ve got it nailed, that’s when I’m about to have a learning experience. It hurts in the moment, but I’m all the better for them. Maybe the trick is to associate the feeling with learning and not failure. Fake it till you make it. I won’t tell.
Some people actually use these dreaded feelings as a compass to direct them to their next project. If everyone else is afraid of doing something, but you can be with the fear (not make it go away) and do it, that’s valuable.
So let’s man and woman up, and get scared. That feeling is exactly what you should be feeling, because you’re doing something that matters.