"The Stage Fright Whisperer," that's what Pat Barber called me this week.
I have never considered myself to be a whisperer, but Pat may be right. I do know how to talk to Stage Fright, and how to teach people to manage it so it doesn't create all kinds of havoc–making them think they're going to faint or vomit, sending tremors through their hands and legs, choking off their voices.
The tips and suggestions for getting rid of stage fright that I've read on line and elsewhere are less than useful. We can't get rid of stage fright. We can learn to understand the how and why of it. We can learn to avoid its most disabilitating symptoms. But we can't get rid of it.
And if we think we ought to be able to eliminate our performance anxiety (the clinical name for stage fright), that there's something wrong with us if we can't, we make matters worse. We set ourselves up for failure, give ourselves more proof that we ought never to speak or perform in public.
The day that we don't feel some anxiety before we walk on stage, or stand in front of a mike, is the day we ought to think about retiring. We can't give a decent performance or presentation without it.
No one is born for a life on the stage or behind a podium. Everyone is born with fear and anxiety mechanisms built in.