Fighting Stage Fright
By Jordan McNeil
I suffer from some pretty intense stage fright. I’ve never really enjoyed the whole public speaking or performing thing, despite the fact that I actually did quite a few musically-related performances throughout my childhood. But no matter how many times I’ve been on a stage or in front of a microphone, each new time I have to get in front of a crowd it is like a first time. I get shaky, nauseated, feeling the whole time like I may just keel over at any point.
It was especially bad last semester at the Jenny Magazine Issue 9 premiere. That was my first time actually being in charge of an event, and that added pressure to the fact that I had to speak in front of a roomful of people multiple times made me extremely ready to just pass out at the mic. But I didn’t, thankfully. And about halfway through the night, the shakes left, and I felt much more comfortable talking to the attendees.
This didn’t stop me, however, from feeling all nervous when I was asked later, months in advance, to participate in the Lit Youngstown reading on Sunday. Just the thought of it — being in front of people I don’t know, sharing my work aloud — made the stage fright kick in, even though I was sitting at my computer at home.
I briefly thought about declining, coming up with a reason that I couldn’t do it, just so I wouldn’t have to experience that stage fright. But some friends encouraged me to accept — as a writer, readings are a good thing to participate in and, most importantly, how was I ever going to get over my fear if I just run away from it all the time?
Unfortunately — or maybe it was just a tiny bit fortunately, if I’m being honest with myself — I didn’t get the chance to fight through the shaky hands and weak knees while sharing a piece of mine that I particularly enjoy. I came down with the flu this weekend, so instead of attending Lit Youngstown’s event, I spent my time alternating between sleeping and lying in bed watching cute goat videos in an attempt to distract myself from how miserable I was feeling.
Maybe I was just a little bit relieved that I had a reason to cancel, even though I still felt horrible having to do so. I had really worked myself into a frenzy with anticipating my stage fright for this reading that I actually had a couple attacks of my stage fright anxiety weeks in advance, whenever I remembered that it was approaching. Worrying about it always makes it worse, but I haven’t yet mastered the ability to stop myself from a worry spiral about anything quite yet.
Despite my minor relief though, I still plan on accepting public reading invites when they present themselves. Occasionally, you do have to face your fears to overcome them; they’re never going to go away if all you do is hide under a blanket from them. Sometimes you just have to step up to the microphone, grip the side of the podium to combat your shaking and speak to the crowd.