Performance Anxiety of Friendships
In high school, I was a theatre kid. Every year I had to not only perform in front of my peers during class, depending on what we were studying (film, theatre, movement, mime, etc) but I also acted in the annual productions our school put on.
I can distinctly remember the moments before going on stage. The anxiety of waiting in the side wings, waiting for your cue, as you rehearse the lines and movements over and over in your head. If you mess up the entrance, then everything else feels shattered. The first line breaks the ice, and it has to be perfect.
Despite being the theatre kid, the magician, the public speaker, I still considered myself nervous and had symptoms of performance anxiety.
In my senior year, I somehow managed to perform for The VIew in New York City. Not on live television, just at the end of the taping, in front of the audience and hosts. My hands and legs were shaking so much, I remember my friend grabbing me and telling me to calm down. Her intentions were nice, but her advice certainly did not do the trick.
Performance anxiety is always a hurdle for me – but it has, not that I can recall, ever stopped me from actually performing. Do you know why?
Because the anxiety, for me, always occurs before I actually have to perform. Everything happens before I physically land on stage. It’s a big hurdle, to say the least. But once I’ve leapt over, what happens on stage feels very natural. I’m in the zone. This is my stage, literally. I command it.
The times I have anxiety on stage is when I feel like there’s something left to be desired for my preparation. It doesn’t happen often, but I know the feeling of not being in the zone. When a performance feels unnatural, it feels too much like a “performance” and unironically ruins the allure of the show.
I have performance anxiety with relationships sometimes. When I catch myself “performing” to fit in – to show the fun, exciting, magic performing, outgoing person. I can do it. I can be social. But it’s all really a performance.
I’m much rather be curled up in my bed, watching a video about the Nobel Prize Winners of Economics in their contributions to Labour Productivity with increased Minimum Wages and Causal relationships. That example might be too specific, and it’s because that’s quite literally what I left the Halloween party being held in the living room of my apartment to do. I guess the great part about having a party at your house is that you have the benefit of leaving whenever you want.
Performance Anxiety in relationships makes it unnatural. It shouldn’t be a performance – but we so often have an idea of what we want to convey to the outside world. Do I want to be the smart person who knows things – the trivia guy? Or the person who is rowdy, I can drink a lot, I’m spontaneous, exciting. Maybe you want people to think you’re sociable, or the nice person, or the funny guy.
I want people to have a good impression of me, so I put on a performance. If you get the first line wrong, your image is shattered.
But the image I’m trying to preserve is never the real me. At least, not at a college party. Large group socialising is not who I am. Performance anxiety persists because I feel like a fraud – like pretending I am enjoying myself, because, that’s what you’re supposed to do at a party. But that image is one I am okay with shattering.
Performance Anxiety of Friendships