Conquer Stage Fright: Be Shiny and Bright!


If you have had to speak or perform in public before, you might be familiar with these symptoms: sweaty palms, shaky knees, an upset stomach, a racing heart, if not a combination of all these. You are not alone!

Did you know that celebrities and famous public figures, such as Adele, Rihanna, Emma Watson, suffer as you do? It is only human; in fact, statistics show that one in every four individuals suffers from stage fright, which can be generally defined as an extreme fear of public speaking. Note that there is a difference between having butterflies in your stomach before a public encounter and feeling that you are losing your wits because of fear.

Speaking/performing in public is important because it may contribute to you getting a degree, earning a job or promotion, or promoting your business or ideas. During your performance, or a good while beforehand, you might fall prey to fear, which usually stems from your excessive thinking about how people are going to view you.

Such fear leads your body to react violently; it causes adrenaline to gush through your veins, and your neck and back to tense up. Your blood pressure jumps, and your limbs shake as your muscles prepare for the attack. Your mouth gets dry as your digestion shuts down in an attempt to transfer nutrients and oxygen to your muscles. As your pupils dilate, you find difficulty reading your notes even though you can still see things at a long distance. Nausea and stomach pain too are not uncommon.


Psychologists maintain that, fortunately, there are strategies that can help you overcome your stage fright. These include:

  • Learn to put your body in a calm state. Dr. Tsaousides, a psychologist, maintains that relaxation helps reduce fear and prevents it from interfering with your performance. Try to breathe deeply and lessen the tension of your muscles, first during your rehearsals and then during your performance. Deep breathing sends a message to your body that things are under control, so it does not need to react violently to protect itself.
  • Rehearse in front of familiar people and in smaller groups of people before you present/perform in front of a larger audience. This helps you familiarize yourself with the situation, which can contribute significantly to reducing your fear.
  • Be well-prepared. Familiarizing yourself with your topic, or practicing several times for your performance, helps you feel things are under control, which does not make you an easy prey to fear. If you know what you are going to say, this will help reduce your anxiety. You also need to learn to say “I do not know” should you be faced with an unexpected question; your audience would respect both your knowledge and frankness.
  • Stop stuffing your brain with negative ideas. Dr. Janet Esposito, a clinical social worker who is devoted to helping people overcome stage fright, advises that we need to create a new response to our fear by saying things to ourselves that can help us create feelings of safety and acceptance. Instead of focusing your thoughts on the audience, try to focus on the value of what you have to deliver.
  • Avoid “cognitive distortions”. Termed by Dr. Esposito, these include: striving for perfection (all or nothing), disqualifying the positives (focusing on your weaknesses and disregarding your strengths), jumping to conclusions (such as anticipating that things will turn out badly), and emotional reasoning (thinking that your negative feelings reflect how things really are), among others.
  • Lack of safety is sometimes rooted in childhood experiences. Those who grow up with criticizing, unsupportive, or violent parents may develop insecurities that would last with them for years, if not for life. If you have had a similar experience, you need to start by treating the damage. You can write down your insecurities and fears and share them with a support person or a therapist.

In short, life is about challenges; you accept a challenge, or you refrain from it. Choosing to live undisturbed in your bubble might sound tempting, but accepting challenges comes with lots of rewards that you would miss out on inside your bubble. No gain without pain, remember? Combat your fear of public speaking, and be shiny and bright; you deserve the rewards!


Barfield, S. (2021, May 12). Here is how these 10 celebrity performers conquer their stage fright. TheThings.

Esposito, J. E. (2007). In the spotlight: Overcome your fear of public speaking and performing (5th ed.). In The Spotlight, LLC.

Stage fright. (n.d.). Psychology Today.

TED-ED (8 October 2013). The science of stage fright (and how to overcome it) – Mikael Cho [video]. YouTube.

Tsaousides, T. (27 November 2017). Why are we scared of public speaking? Psychology Today.

Tsaousides, T. (28 November 2017). How to conquer the fear of public speaking. Psychology Today.

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