Beyond Stage Fright - Managing Performance Nerves
The Inner Critic
The Inner Critic is that voice in your head that sets out to sabotage both your practising and your performance. It tells you that you’re no good and that you can’t do it. If you have this voice wanting to make its presence felt, you’re not alone! I have talked to musicians at every level, from beginners to top international soloists who, to differing degrees, have to deal with this aspect of themselves.
The Inner Critic is critical but in a very negative way that does nothing to support you. The Inner Critic might say “That’s really stupid, how could you have made that mistake?” The result of this negative self-talk can be very damaging to you in a number of ways:
- We can tense up as an unconscious way of protecting ourselves from our own negative voice and this gets in the way of free, expressive playing
- We believe our own self-talk and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy
- Overall, the Inner Critic makes us feel insecure and that is a perfect breeding ground for out-of-control nerves.
The good news is that it is possible to quieten that voice considerably and in time, change our experience of performance for the better. The first step towards this though is to notice the Inner Critic and bring it up to our conscious awareness.
Tomorrow, we will be looking at how to get ready for the performance itself.
- Start your practice time with your conscious awareness directed towards noticing your Inner Critic.
- Write down what you hear as if your Inner Critic was a real person eg: “You never get this passage right!”
- Read it back to yourself.
- Imagine saying these things to your partner, child or best friend. Would it help them perform freely and with enjoyment?
- Reflect on how much your Inner Critic is impacting your practice and performance.
Resources and further reading