Anxiety and Failure

This is my anxiety.  I'll just put that out there in the intranets.  I'm afraid of failing.  Whenever I go to play a piece publicly I am afraid of forgetting the piece, of loosing my spot, of playing it poorly, of stumbling so much that I can't recover-  in short of failing.

Here are some great ideas for dealing with that fear of failure

  • the day of the concert offer quiet distractions like drawing or reading

  • have your student play the piece for family and friends - reinforce what they did well

  • talk to your student about what will happen if they make an error - reinforce that it's about recovery and not perfection

  • remind students that there is no perfect performance - only perfect for THEM

So on the day of a concert I don't practice my piece.  I ignore it.  I distract myself with a million other things.  I practice my technical exercises before I go to play but only to warm my fingers up.  When I'm sitting waiting for my turn I try to think of anything BUT my performance because I tend to work myself up. ( Luckily for me a lot of my performances are at concerts I am MC'ing so I get to keep my mind off of my piece. ) After the performance I try to remind myself what I did well and focus on that, only going through the parts that were not excellent to try to learn from them.  This is my performance process.  It works for me.  What do you do when you have to perform?

 

Anxiety and Performance - Fear of the Unknown

 If you have talked about the performance and have determined that your student is anxious about playing, we can then try to find out what the anxiety is about.  Some students are afraid of performance because they haven't performed before, or they haven't performed in a formal setting before.  

To help students with this particular anxiety I will sometimes take them to the recital space and have them scope it out.  Feeling comfortable with where they are playing can make them feel a whole lot better.  

We often do a mock recital in lessons where I call up the student and have them bow and then play their piece and down again and sit down - we practice their performances.  It feels silly when we are doing it, but I've noticed with my students who are seriously nervous about the recital this can help.  

Try doing this at home - playing for more people and practicing the recital protocol can help anxious students feel more relaxed when the time comes for them to play.  

Anxiety and Performance - Is it your student or is it you?

There is some debate about how much we download our own fears and anxieties onto our children (or our students for that matter).  Sometimes it's worth asking WHY a student is anxious instead of assuming (we've all done this, me included).  

So here are some questions to ask students about performance anxiety (assuming your student IS anxious)

  1. How do you feel when we talk about playing at the recital?

  2. How do you feel when you play a recital?

  3. How would you feel if I recorded you playing when you are practicing? (why or why not)

  4. Would you like to play your piece for our family? (Why or why not)

Sometimes saying to a student "don't feel nervous" or the like, can cause MORE anxiety or create anxiety where there is none. Instead probe your student to tell them in their own words, with their own experiences, how it feels to perform.  Remind them of the amazing amount of work they have put into their piece and how proud of them you are (don't qualify why you are proud of them though!).  We are proud of all of our students for having the courage to play their recitals and it doesn't change how proud we are of them if they play flawlessly (no such thing!) or make serious errors.  They did it and that's what counts.

Let us know if there are any tricks you've used to deal with anxiety!