Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Performance Anxiety

How do you know that you're right if you're not nervous anymore?

My pharm professor posted a link to Time Magazine's article, "Why Anxiety is Good for You", in our lecture about anxiolytics.  Ironically, I had just read the article on a retreat to Vermont a few weeks prior.

I find anxiety and nervousness to be fascinating.  Our physiological survival response kicks in at the most paradoxical times.  For me, the sympathetics rev up when I start public speaking, or if I feel like I might make a fool out of myself; however, there is a delicate point where our nerves rev up and can either cause us to perform brilliantly or cause us to fluster into disaster.  I've had figure skating performances that have ended up on both ends of the spectrum. Interestingly, I think this on-off approach to my nerves may have wired me for quite an extremist approach to life:  I will either succeed or fail miserably.  That process of thinking is probably not healthy, but regardless, it is interesting. I have never seemed to wrap my head around others that are okay with living somewhere in between.  How do you do that?

For now though, I need to trust my nervous system.  When our nerves kick in, it means we are doing something right.  It means we care and we have worked hard to prepare for something.  Let's use that physiological power we have to its potential.  It's scary, I know.  It's a feeling so powerful, it is almost burdensome.  I mean, the feeling is evolutionarily designed to help us escape from a bear, so of course it is powerful.  But, if we can harness and control it, wow, who knows where we could go?

I think Eminem summed up well:
"His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy, 
There's vomit on his sweater already, mom's spaghetti
He's nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready"

You know the feeling.  You're either going to throw up or take off flying.

I guess we'll see.

Thanks Barbara and Grandma for helping me fly :)

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