From Fear to a Me-Tox Preshow Ritual

Alisha and I have been best friends since musical theater summer camp at 16 years old. We were roommates for four years at UCLA. I’m Maid of Honor in her wedding this summer. We have both struggled with fear and performance anxiety for years. We are each other’s cheerleaders, each other’s rocks. I am so excited to share this beautiful essay of hers with you all. Here’s to “fear” being our greatest teacher.

I used to have no problem getting on stage and singing to a crowd of any size. My whole life I was in plays, participated in musical theater, sang with several different bands and as a solo artist, and never experienced any kind of stage fright or nervousness. One night, right before one of the first shows we did as Sleep Machine, I suddenly froze. We were on stage, behind the curtain at the Viper Room in Los Angeles, about to start our set and I had to run to the bathroom. I broke out into a cold sweat and thought I was going to faint. The feeling didn’t go away until I went outside for some fresh air and took a sip of water, and eventually, I was able to get onstage and do the show. After that experience, I feared every performance.

I was devastated. In the blink of an eye, the thing that I loved the most became the thing that I feared the most. I would dread performing. My fear of something like that happening to me again or even worse, experiencing it in front of a crowd completely crippled me. Although I never said no to a gig, I questioned whether or not this was something I was able to do. I knew the fear was created by me in my head, but that didn’t take away from how real it felt.

Being on stage is a strange thing. It can bring up some of your deepest insecurities. As an artist, we dig deep to make art that exposes the most vulnerable parts of ourselves, with the hope that it moves and inspires our audience. Rock music brought out that out of me; parts of me that I wasn’t even aware that I was hiding. That first moment of panic before going on stage was the marriage of exposing my vulnerability and the insecurity of doing it. At the time, it felt like the worst thing that could have ever happened to me, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Fear was my greatest teacher. It informed me of my weaknesses, and with careful and close attention, I began to learn how to strengthen them. It taught me to be mindful of when I’m getting lost in my thoughts and disconnected from my heart. Once I realized that fear never goes away, I stopped resisting it and learned to accept it. As soon as I was able to have compassion for my fear, understand it as a strength, an opportunity for growth, and not a weakness, I was able to accept and love myself exactly as I am; insecurities and all.

All of this led me to a very specific pre-show ritual. Since the opposite of fear is love, on show days I do everything I can to stay connected to my heart and out of my head. The first thing I do in the morning is 20 minutes of transcendental meditation. It helps to set the tone and mentally prepare for an awesome show. Then I’ll go for a run, which is a staple for show days for three reasons: One, I listen through the set and visualize how I want it to go. Two, it helps me get all the nervous energy out of my system. And three, I like to sing through some phrases so I can connect my voice with my breath. For the rest of the day, I generally try to take it easy. I like to go through the lyrics and make sure I’m connected to the story I’m telling. I try to eat a good balance of carbs and protein throughout the day so that I’m physically prepared. In the afternoon, I do a second 20-minute meditation with 5 minutes of pranayama (a breathing exercise). A few hours before the show, I drink a protein shake and eat a side of roasted potatoes. Bananas actually help calm nervousness, so I make sure to bring one with me to the show. Moments before getting on stage, I say a little prayer to my grandmother, who escaped the holocaust and became an opera singer, asking her to give me the physical, mental, and emotional strength to have a kickass set. After that I jump up and down to loosen up, give a smile to the band, and it’s go time.

1 reply
  1. Himanshu
    Himanshu says:

    Great, loved it, I am suffering from fear too, it’s hard, but I will do whatever I can
    Thanks for sharing


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