Self-doubt is an Important Motivator
It doesn’t matter how successful creative people actually achieve. Feeling inadequate is a common malady in showbiz.
Barbra Streisand avoided live performance for 27 years.
Adele has said, “I’m scared of audiences. My nerves don’t really settle until I’m off stage.” Her concerts mean so much that she fears letting her audience down.
Kate Winslet has admitted, “Sometimes I wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and I think, I can’t do this; I’m a fraud. They’re going to fire me—all these things. I’m fat; I’m ugly.”
Otis Skinner, one of the great 19th-century matinee idols, once told his daughter Cornelia “Any actor who claims he is immune to stage fright is either lying or else he’s no actor.”
These superstars are not alone. Michael Gambon, Meryl Streep, Kenneth Branagh, Richard Burton, Fredric March, Andrea Bocelli, Ewan McGregor, Steven Osborne, Derek Jacobi, Stephen Fry, Eileen Atkins, Maureen Stapleton, Ian Holm, Renee Fleming, Carly Simon, Marilyn Monroe, Ellen Terry, Rod Stewart, and Peter Eyre—even actor-trainers such as Lee Strasberg and Konstantin Stanislavsky—have suffered from varying degrees of stage fear.
Fear is a universal problem.
Give voice to your fear self-doubt & take action
Many icons suffer from stage fear, often from the weight of expectation that their reputations place upon them. They throw up, feel paralyzed, or break into cold sweats. Adele once got so unnerved that she escaped from the fire exit at an Amsterdam concert venue.
Consider actor Laurence Olivier, who suffered stage fright even in his sixties when he was the world’s most revered stage performer. Even at the pinnacle of his fame, the National Theatre’s stage manager had to prod Olivier onstage every night.
Laurence Olivier suffered five years of agonizing dread following a press night in 1964, when he found his voice diminishing and the audience “beginning to go giddily round.” He developed strategies. When delivering his Othello soliloquies, he asked his Iago to stay in sight, fearing, “I might not be able to stay there in front of the audience by myself.” He asked actors not to look him in the eye: “For some reason, this made me feel that there was not quite so much loaded against me.” The venerable Sybil Thorndike gave him trenchant counsel: “Take drugs, darling, we do.”
As a sidebar, when Olivier made his stage debut playing Brutus at a choir school in London, Thorndike was in the audience. After seeing Olivier on stage for just five minutes, she turned to her husband. She declared, “But this is an actor—absolutely an actor. Born to it.”
Focus on what needs to be done & break the shell of fear and self-doubt
Some of our most admired icons experienced self-doubt—even Abraham Lincoln and Mahatma Gandhi. What distinguishes most successful people is that they engage their fear. They accept that diffidence and adrenalin rush are something that they must deal with.
Interestingly enough, it’s often the mature performer, not the novice, who’s most likely to succumb to a seizure of nerves. However, superstars know in their heart of hearts that fear of inadequacy isn’t shameful. It’s normal. It’s part of the profession. It’s human.
Successful people know how to turn anxiety into energy. They take steps to minimize adverse effects. Through action, they transform their fear into vitality. Fear becomes fuel. They refuse to let their fears get in the way of their goals and success. They overcome fear through the love of the work and channel the sense of the audience’s or constituency’s expectation and goodwill into their best performance.
Idea for Impact: Don’t Fear it, Embrace it.
It’s natural to feel apprehensive when embarking on any venture. Don’t drown in a sea of self-doubt.
Overconfidence can take the edge off the feeling that you need to work hard. It’s ironic that high self-confidence, so often advised as the cure for low achievement, can cause it.
Fear invites you to work harder on your methods, strategies, and skills. It’s undoubtedly more preferable than the alternative. High self-esteem and overconfidence can lead to complacency and no growth. As Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro reminds in The Remains of the Day (1989,) “If you are under the impression you have already perfected yourself, you will never rise to the heights you are no doubt capable of.”
Focus on turning your fears into positive motivators to improve your work. Action transforms anxiety into energy. The “angels” want you to succeed.
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