A DOZEN NASTY "WHAT IFS" AND A DOZEN REPLIES
Dr. Eric Mansel. DRAMATICS. September, 1992.
Here are twelve examples of the kinds of negative thoughts that can contribute to performance anxiety, and corresponding examples of the assertive, positive mental replies you can make to them:
What if...everyone is watching me?
But they're supposed to be watching me! That doesn't mean they're judging me or disapproving of me. It makes perfect sense that they're watching me, doesn't it?
What if...they judge me?
Well, they'll judge me. That's up to them. My job is to act, to really get into the play, to do the best work I can. If their job is to rank me or to compare me to someone else, that's their business.
What if...I disappoint my parents?
Well, sometimes they disappoint me. Everybody disappoints everybody sometimes. I don't expect to make a habit of it, but every so often it's really okay. I may be great, marvelous, splendid, and all of that, but I can be disappointing once in a while, and that's okay.
What if...I disappoint Uncle Oscar, who's come all the way from Boise to see the play?
Who is Uncle Oscar, anyway? Do I even know him? I hope he enjoys the play, but I don't even know if he likes Beckett. Anyway, I never expect to please everyone in the audience. You never know who's going to like what.
What if...I mess up and get the other actors and the director mad at me?
Well, that certainly wouldn't feel good, but I'll live with whatever happens. Maybe I'll feel a little embarrassed, but probably no one will say a word to me afterwards. And if someone does criticize me, maybe I won't take it, because it's not open season on me, and who's perfect anyway?
What if...I don't do as well as I did the last time I played the role?
Well, the way I look at it, each time is the first time. Each time it's a new performance. This performance is unique and I just don't care to compare my performances one to another.
What if...I forget the lines I always forget?
Wait a second. I don't always forget them. I remember all of them right now. So why should I do a number on myself and tell myself that I'm going to forget them? The heck with that!
What if...I disappoint myself?
I'll probably be sad. But that's okay. I won't go calling myself names or beating myself up. I'll just try to think about what happened and see if there are things I can do differently next time. I'll learn from the experience and no doubt I'll get over the sadness pretty fast.
What if...my father says something to me right before the performance that makes me angry?
Well, that won't happen, because I've learned to avoid him before performances. But if he does find me and does say something that hurts my feelings or makes me angry, I will let go of it right away. I won't let whatever's going on in his head sabotage my performance.
What if...I perform brilliantly?
Well, that' okay, isn't it? I mean, I don't have any reason to mess up, do I? I don't fear becoming a star or getting lots of attention or anything like that, do I? Gee...I don't think so. No -- I think I'll just really enjoy myself after a brilliant performance!
What if...I disappoint my teacher?
Well, I hope we'll be able to laugh about it afterward. Either we have the kind of relationship that can weather a few disappointments or we don't -- and if we don't, I really think that's the teacher's problem, not mine.
What if...I die from the pressure?
Well, then I'll be dead, and I certainly won't be worrying about stage fright any more!