Friday, October 21, 2016

Fear and Excitement

Here's an interesting fact that I hadn't heard or ever thought about until just the other day: Fear and excitement are physiologically the same thing. Your body doesn't know the difference. 

That being the case, it seems that it would serve us all better if we chose to think of ourselves as excited rather than fearful, right?

Let's say you have a speech to give in front of an important audience. You have butterflies in your stomach, and your heart is racing. You could think to yourself, "Whoa. I'm super nervous!",and most likely, your performance would suffer because of it. However, if you instead reframe those feelings to mean, "Wow!  I am so excited about this that my stomach is doing cartwheels!", your approach and the way you connect with the audience is probably going to be a lot more positive.  And fun. For everyone involved.

When I think back to my very first gig, I realize the only reason I was able to follow through with it was because I was able to reframe my fear and recognize it as excitement.

It's sort of a funny story. I was on a cruise with my family. I entered the talent show as a dare from my brother.  He entered it too, and it was just sort of a funny vacation moment that the two of us shared.  But it was also more than that. It made me think, “Hey. That was fun! Maybe I could do that in real life.” 

With butterflies in my stomach, I delivered my cassette recorded audition tape to a restaurant in my hometown just a few weeks after that talent show. I was elated (and a little shocked) that I got booked to play the following weekend.  

Fermin drove me, my guitar, and my tiny little amp to my first Friday evening gig. As soon as we pulled into the parking lot and I saw the crowded outdoor patio packed with people, I panicked.  "Forget it!  Take me home!  Seriously, I can't do this. I'm going to vomit."  I wasn't exaggerating.  My fear was real.  Who did I think I was to get in front of this crowd of people and sing? My body was reacting to all that adrenaline coursing through me and I was nearly convinced that this idea was a huge mistake. We stood in the parking lot as Fermin tried to convince me I could do it, and I wailed on and on that I couldn't. And then we saw a car approaching from a distance.  With his windows down, the driver yelled out, “Kerri Arista ROCKS!"  It was a friend of Fermin's that had come out with his wife to hear me. It was funny and it made me laugh.  And it broke into my fear for just a split second. 

In that split second, I realized it wasn’t just fear I was feeling. I still had the butterflies and I still felt like I might vomit, but I looked at Fermin and said, "Okay, I think I got this. I can do it.  I'm actually kind of excited." 

And I did it.  I played my first gig.  I was scared. But I reframed it into excitement just in time.  And that excitement actually gave me courage. The crowd was in good and appreciative spirits (mostly due to the 3pm happy hour that had started well before my arrival at 6pm!) and was happy to have live music of any kind.  My little amp barely pumped enough sound out for anyone but the first few rows of tables, so it was mainly just a few friends and family that could hear me.  But it was one of the gigs I'm the most proud of because I started out being very scared, but I did it anyway.  And from there, I got booked again.  And then I went on to bigger and better venues.  So many great things happened because of that small start. But if I had let fear stop me, I never would have known how much fun I could have doing it.

So next time you feel fearful- just keep in mind that your body doesn't know the difference between being scared and being excited.  Just tell it...

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