How To Treat Your Performance Anxiety - Success Or Failure?

How To Treat Your Performance Anxiety - Success Or Failure?

Anxiety Disorders » How To Treat Your Performance Anxiety Success Or Failure?

How To Treat Your Performance Anxiety Success Or Failure?

In this article, you will learn:

Why optimism opens doors and pessimism shuts them

All the ways success can be scary

Self-efficacy: The key to successful success

Walking yourself into success one step at a time

When all else fails, look to your unconscious

When you think of stage fright, or performance anxiety, you think of fear of failure. But people can also be terrifically afraid of success or of the attaining of it, which can stop you from pursing your goals.

And stage fright happens not only when faced with a theater full of people peering at you but also when performing in front of just one person. In this chapter, well look at fear of failure or success during three common events performed for just one person:

When youre being tested by an instructor

When youre being appraised as a potential employee during a job interview

When your masculinity or femininity is being sized up in a performance of affections in the bedroom

Fortunately, there are disarmingly simple ways to stop putting off your best work.

Optimism replaces SAT scored When psychologist Martin Seligman studied 500 members of the incoming fresh-man class of 1984 at the University of Pennsylvania, the students scores on a test of optimism were a better predictor of their actual freshman year grades than were their SAT scores or their high school grades.

Do you have the my-cup-is-half-full, optimistic outlook on life or the my-cup-is-half-empty, pessimis-tic one? If you are an optimist, you are a hopeful person, tend to have higher self-esteem, and feel that things in life will basically turn out in your favor. For you, noth-ing succeeds like failure—it motivates you to evaluate your shortcomings and to work to overcome them. When you do succeed, you take credit and feel proud. It spurs you on to even greater conquests.

If you are a pessimist or a negative thinker, failure is devastating and confirms what you already believe about yourself: You are no good. Trying again is too chancy. You feel its better to play it safe and protect what little self-esteem you possess. With so much to lose, its not worth taking risks.

But what if you dont fail at your performance? What if you succeed? For the insecure, the sweet smell of success too often reeks of self-doubt, guilt, uncertainty, and anxiety. In spite of fame, fortune and power, you dont learn to own your success.

Do any of these concerns that underlie a fear of success sound familiar?

Do you love me or my money

Ill be embarrassed in the limelight

Success doesnt buy love so why bother

Success in sex requires too much risky intimacy

If you have low self-esteem, some part of you feels that you are too wretched a person to deserve to triumph. Sir Laurence Olivier attributed his stage fright to, some overblown claim to pride in myself that would be bound to find the punishment that it deserved, as if he had no right to feel good about himself and his talent.

He who fears being conquered is sure of defeat.—Napoleon Bonaparte

Underneath overblown pride, or narcissism, is the opposite feeling—that you are inherently flawed. To compensate, you strive for perfection and setunrealistically high expectations for yourself, others, and life. When, inevitably, things fall short, you become disappointed and self-critical. Even when enormously successful, you zoom in on the fly in the ointment and tend to discount and ignore whats good. You compare yourself to others, minimize your own achievements and feel like a failure—worse than nothing. And you projectthis self-hate onto others and assume that they toodespise you for being so defective.

What drives people to perfectionism? Perhaps you had critical parents who expected perfection—Only a Bi- on your exam?—and didnt understand the words I cant. Regardless of your accomplishments, it was never enough to please them. Often these are parents who, like the quintessential stage mother, feel their child must become all they couldnt: I sacrificed for you and you have to make-up for what I missed. Later, the whole world becomes a stage on which you play out your childhood longings for parental approval. If you give a perfect performance, you will be successful. Everyone will love you and your mother or father will finally come to see your worth. When you fall short of perfection, you see in your minds eye that reflection of your parents disappointment and feel like less than nothing.

In the movie, Shine, piano prodigy David Helfgott was pressured by his domineering father, a man impassioned by music, to enter piano competitions, the first one at age nine. Living vicariously through his son, and acting as his tutor, mentor, and, ultimately tormentor, Peter Helfgott expected David to win and was personally wounded if he didnt. When David was offered a scholarship to study in London, which threatened the fathers control of his sons career, Peter Helfgott became enraged and forbade it. The ensuing bitterness was apparently a catalyst in the nervous disorder that kept Helfgott in psychiatric institu-tions for over a decade.

The same need for perfection happens when you had a perfect parent or sibling and felt you couldnt compete. To make it worse, you were always compared. Why cant you be smart like your sister Sue? Why cant you be a go-getter like your brother Brad? In some cases, these perceptions were realistic: You were born with less talent than other family members; trying to compete is hopeless. In other cases, you falsely perceive your lack of abilities in light of the idealized parent or better sibling.

Patti, an undergraduate at a state college, had terrific test anxiety. Though exception-ally bright and always well prepared for an exam, she would convince herself that she would fail miserably and referred to herself as the retard. The day of the test, she would wake up feeling nervous and worried that she had not mastered the material. By the time she sat down to take the exam, she had worked herself into a frenzy and froze. The page was a blur and her mind went blank. Often, she felt so nervous during an exam that she felt she would vomit.

Pattis mother was beautiful, charming, and an accomplished pianist, adored by everyone. Patti, in contrast, was quiet, a bit chunky and socially awkward. How could she ever do anything to match up to her perfect mother, who expected perfection, and her demanding father, who expected her to be like her perfect mother? Why cant you be friendly and smile at people, like your mother does? he would ask. Why cant you care about your appearance? Look how well your mother puts herself together. No matter what success she achieved, it would fall short of what her exemplary and wonderful mother could do. Nor would her father ever love and adore her as he did her brilliant mother.

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