A performing arts student faced with the anxiety of high-pressure auditions offered some insight into managing fear. It helped him win a job offer following a string of disappointments.

Anxiety breeds negative self-talk. “I don’t look right”, “I’m sure I’ll say the wrong thing”, or “They won’t like me” are thoughts that cascade through our brains as the stress builds. Rather than try to ignore this waterfall of negativity, this young musician found success in paying attention to the thoughts in his head. Following the advice of an accomplished musical instructor, he made a conscious decision to hear himself and stay engaged without analysis or judgment, avoiding the tendency to evaluate if the thoughts were good or bad. He didn’t let his anxiety distract him and therefore was able to focus on his performance and be himself. As a result, he found himself smiling during the audition, which probably endeared him to his audience.

Though I am not in the performing arts field, I think this approach is applicable to other encounters where nerves take over, such as speaking engagements, job interviews and networking. As someone who tends to be introspective, I have tried to pull myself out of my own head to stay calm. I like the idea of trying to acknowledge my own thoughts without letting them overwhelm me. It is definitely worth a try.