When taking on a bigger, more powerful role, treat anxiety by rehearsing, warming up, and not focusing on yourself.
Many people dream of occupying powerful roles, whether in social groups, family set-ups, or at work. But stepping into those roles can be terrifying.
People often question their own abilities and worry about being judged, which prevents them from using their power well. They might, for example, avoid making tough choices for fear of being held accountable. Or they might prioritize being liked and end up making the wrong decisions.
Actors also experience performance anxiety, but they have ways of managing it. Their strategies can even be applied to roles off the stage.
The key message here is: When taking on a bigger, more powerful role, treat anxiety by rehearsing, warming up, and not focusing on yourself.
How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice! It might be an old joke but it’s still what actors do in their many rehearsal sessions.
When you do something over and over again, it becomes a habit. So, by rehearsing what a powerful role requires, you turn unfamiliar actions into behavior that feels natural. As a result, you start feeling more confident in your role.
But rehearsing isn’t simply running through what you plan to say. It’s more effective to incorporate as much detail as possible. For example, when preparing for a talk, the author puts on her costume, pulls out her props, and walks like she’s on a stage. This way, she gets fully immersed in the actions.
If you’ve rehearsed but still feel anxious before an important meeting or other situation where you need to exercise power, another strategy is to get physical. Warm-ups – like stretching, walking, or breathing exercises – can help you get rid of nervous energy. Plus, they distract you from anxious thoughts, making you feel calmer.
Speaking of distractions, this is another way that actors deal with nerves on stage.
It’s difficult to really get into character if you’re focused on how you feel or what others might think. So actors make an effort to focus on other things, like the fellow actors on stage. When using this technique, the author concentrates on the people around her and how they might be feeling, but you can also focus on sounds or objects around you.