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Fear Less: Anxiety as an Artist

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” – Our Precarious Habitat by Melvin A. Benarde

How many times have you sat by yourself the night before a show or event and felt like your mind was on a merry-go-round of panic? If you battle with anxiety, it’s probably too many you care to count.

Self-doubting and worrisome thoughts may leave you anxious, make you feel alone. There are many pressures you will face as an artist, pressures only those like you may understand. You should know, anxiety is normal. You’re not alone, in fact, there are many creatives that experience exactly what you do.

I bet, as an artist, you’ve had one or more of the following thoughts:

  • Will they like my new song? I don’t know if it’s good enough.
  • Last night I hit this note, what if I miss it tomorrow? People are going to notice.
  • Does my outfit look okay? Maybe I should change.
  • I have to network with at least 12 people tonight, otherwise, I’ll never make it.
  • What if nobody comes? Maybe I shouldn’t go. No, I need to go.
  • Do I sound pitchy? I sound pitchy, don’t I?
  • If this show doesn’t sell out, then we won’t have enough money to make it to the next stop of the tour. My career will be over.
  • I’ve worked really hard to be nominated…but I probably won’t win anyways. Who cares.

Was I right? Of course! I’m a creative like you. I’ve had thoughts just like these before. They’re valid. Sometimes you can spend hours crafting scenarios in your head, pondering the “what ifs” of life. After all, you’re a dreamer. Since you were young, you’re thoughts have been consumed with wondrous plans for your future as an artist, and unfortunately, at some point, self-doubt about those plans tagged along. I know it still feels isolating at times, you’re worrisome your career will never come to full fruition.

However, let me show you just how “not alone” you are.

A study conducted in 2016 by Help Musicians UK revealed that 71% of musicians, surveyed in their M.A.D campaign, had battled with anxiety at some point in their careers.

Thousands of musicians are by your side wrestling with this same inner-dialogue, night after night. Recently, Grammy and Oscar award-winning artist Lady Gaga even admitted to battling with similar feelings in her SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s Artists Awards acceptance speech, “So I spent three-and-a-half hours writing what I was going to say. And as I’ve been sitting here all night, I’ve been going, ‘Oh my God, your speech is too long and everybody’s going to get bored.”
The question, then, comes about, how do you, as an artist, tackle anxiety?

First, we need to define anxiety, so that you may understand it, instead of fear this stigmatized word.

Anxiety is fear or worry. Period. Although there are many different types of anxiety, it all boils down to the fear or worry that exposure to a certain situation or object will occur. It may have occurred in the past, and you fear it will happen again or it may be the fear of an instance happening for the first time. Anxiety is different for everyone, but we’re all in this together. No matter; anxiety is real, normal and can be helped.
Next, we need to devise a plan to take on anxiety when it starts to hit.

There are many options. Don’t be afraid to talk to your physician about anxiety. They can help you find a life coach, personal trainer, psychologist, or psychiatrist. All situations are unique, but there is always a solution.

No matter the route you take, be it a personal trainer or life coach, I believe there is secret weapon artists are born with, including you, that can be used to kickstart your journey of fearing less.

What’s that secret weapon? Creativity. Just like when you were young, you still have the ability to dream up anything! Why not envision positivity when anxiety starts to kick in.

The next time you start to think about hopping on the merry-go-round of panic, pause, and remember you are in control of where your thoughts go. I had a music business professor many years ago who made it his mission to ingrain 5 simple words in his student’s brains; you always have a choice. You have a choice to not get on that merry-go-round of panic. Use your creativity to envision a staircase of hope, each step filled with a positive thought that carries you to the top.

I promise you, soon, those negative thoughts we talked about before, will look a lot like this.

  • I love my new song. I believe its lyrics will heal many people
  • Last night I hit this note, I know what I’m doing. I’ve practiced, I know I can hit it again.
  • I feel confident in my outfit because I am comfortable and expressive wearing it.
  • One person at a time tonight. Hard work + being myself = success
  • People will come to my show.
  • I am doing my absolute best. I have put in the practice hours to sing on pitch.
  • My career will not fail unless I stop trying. I will not stop trying.
  • No matter what happens, I am proud of myself. To be in this moment is an achievement in itself.

If you, or an artist you know, is struggling with anxiety; take action, speak up. Let’s crumble the stigma around mental illness; together. Fear less, understand more.

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