Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ask Parvati 39: Overcoming Stage Fright and Performance Anxiety - Part 4: The Inner Critique and Self-Love

(Continued from To Risk Speaking Up And Saying What You Feel)

I have a saying that gets me through every show. If there are three people in a room, one person will hate what I do; another will love it; while another will not care. I find this very helpful. Everyone will have their own, personal experience and opinion of what I do. My job is not to worry about what others think, but to do the best job I feel I can do and have fun while I do it.

People may not like what we say, and react to it. But that is their stuff and is no reflection of who we are. Our job is not to try to fix or change anyone, but get on and do what we are each here to do. We do not need to try to convince someone we are worthy of love, because we already are worthy, simply by being.

If we look deeply into the root of stage fright, we will find that we may need to cultivate a bit more self-love. Self-love is different from self-confidence. Self-confidence can get us to the stage. Self-love will help us enjoy delivering the show. If we don't have self-love, our self-confidence becomes bravado - thick on the outside and hollow within. Once the test comes, we crack.

When we face the risk to give voice and overcome stage fright, we must face our inner critique. It is my understanding that the inner critique is a summary of our limiting beliefs that were sealed into our psyche as children. The louder the inner critique, the lower the self-esteem, the more afraid we feel of being who we are. Self-love is closely linked to self-esteem. Self-esteem comes when we have a strong
sense of self-love. I looked at how to cultivate self-esteem and self-love in more depth than I will do here, in my previous blog entry I Suck, Please Love Me. It is important to understand how to cultivate self-love when we wish to overcome performance anxiety and stage fright. So please take a look at it.

It is often the case that those with low self-esteem project their inner critique onto the world. Those with a strong inner critique tend to have a tougher time with stage fright and performance anxiety. The inner critique is an extension of our childhood patterns that kept us ducking how we really felt in an effort to placate our caregivers. We began to overwrite our natural impulses, which soon felt wrong. When the inner critique is in overdrive, we can become compulsively afraid that we will displease, even simply by being. The inner critique is an inner voice that repeatedly lets us know what we "should" and "should not" do in order to measure up, and ultimately, be loved. But listening to this voice will not bring us happiness. We cannot find the love we truly seek through self-effacing acts. We must be naturally ourselves and cultivate a rich life in a world we feel welcomes us wholly to blossom into our fullest being.

We all have a voice. We all are called to speak up and say how we feel daily. It takes a certain self-confidence, and healthy self-esteem to do so. These come from understanding our own inherent worth. We all likely have had some experience of stage fright, from the more obvious situations like office presentations and public speaking, to the subtler, when we are asked how we feel and clam up. When we don't show up for ourselves and our lives, we rob life of the richness of who we are. We need to be rooted in our own inherent personal value to live life fully.

There is no doubt that there are mean-spirited and negative people out there who are toxic to be around. It is best to move on should we find ourself engaging with such people. But at a more psychological level, the criticisms we feel from others hurt because we are good at criticizing ourselves. If we really stop and think about it, if we were truly rooted in LOVE, and I mean self-love, love for others - love, not wanting - then would we not just see the person criticizing us as doing just that - criticizing? It would not feel like a personal attack, because we would see them in their own pain, their own suffering. Is a person who criticizes feeling loved and fulfilled themselves? No. Remember that when you next feel criticized.

Criticizing is not okay. I am not condoning it. I am simply saying that when you feel criticized, remember that it comes from someone who is distorted, and not rooted in love.

Feedback is different from criticism. Feedback gives us a clear idea where we excel and where we can grow. It provides information about a specific task with specific details. Criticism directly attacks a person's nature, not a specific task. When we criticize, we indicate that a person is bad or is not worthy. When we give feedback, we indicate how a specific tasks does not work for us and suggest possible ways a person may improve that specific task, if they so choose. Criticism is toxic and erodes our self-esteem, whereas feedback supports our growth.

As you learn to overcome stage fright and performance anxiety, focus on developing a loving relationship with your own self, and letting go of the voice of your inner critique. Understand that the inner critique comes from a wounded place that does not see the world in wholeness or balance, but from a place of fear and disconnect. When we understand that the inner critique really is a wounded place looking to create more wounded experiences, it no longer has power over us and loses its grip over our mind. Once we let go of attachment to our inner critique, the criticisms we may experience from others will roll off our back. We will be rooted in self-love, where distorted perceptions like criticism will have no meaning and will not be able to take root. We can get on with enjoying and sharing the light we are in a fertile world that fully receives our whole self.

(Continued tomorrow with "Taking Up Space: The Co-Creative Flow")

PS: Tomorrow is the last day to send your questions to be answered next
week. Please send yours to

1 comment:

  1. I have never experienced stage fright when I've sung bhajans for Amma in a hall filled with thousands of devotees. But when Amma is not in town, I am a master at playing it small, stuffing down my feelings, hiding Amma out of fear people will think I am in a cult, and generally stuffing whatever self-love I might have had down the crapper.