I'm not sure if this has always been such an issue for me-- sometimes I can perform fine, other times not so much. I think the hidden variable is how much performing I have been doing.
Last month, I was lucky enough to go to a live pop concert. They were an Australian band and they were soooooo wonderful! I loved the music, but I found myself so intrigued by the actual performance--the completely calm and collected lead singer who was dancing, conversing with the audience, singing her heart out and leaving us almost bewitched. Her outfit was so skimpy and so fabulous--I had no idea how she was strutting around confidently on stage in front of us all, not missing a note and not seeming distracted by her clothes in any way! I remember thinking, "I could never do that . . . but I reeeeeally wish I could!"
It's amazing to me the difference between a performer and a practicer. A performer is almost selling their act to you, but in a good way! Their energy is open and energetic. They want you to enjoy yourself, they want you to come back or buy their music or follow them on whatever social media they have. It kind of reminds me of some of the people I follow on YouTube . . . sometimes it's not necessarily what they are saying, but how they are saying it. Their ability to express who they are allows you to connect with them and like them enough to subscribe to their videos. It's how they touch you. A practicer is not interested in any of that. They are interested in getting the notes, having the bow in the right place and playing in tune. They're energy and focus is inward and cerebral instead of expansive and emotional. People are emotional beings and performers can tap into that and touch us in a way that a practicer never will.
Don't get me wrong, I get caught up in my thoughts a lot and I looooooove a deep discussion where I can explore and stretch my ideas with others, but even that boils down to emotions. We love those intellectual conversations because they make us feel good! We can connect with the heart and mind of another person, unwrap their thoughts and ideas and maybe begin to understand more about each other and the way we each see the world. Humans love to understand things. Understanding things gives us a feeling of conviction which gives us a feeling of assurance, which gives us comfort, which makes us feel good. I think you can just about boil every single thing that we do in life down to whether or not it makes us feel good. This is an important point to get if you're going to be an entertainer!
So how does that relate to performance anxiety? It might be the mind set. The mind set of both is to accomplish something wonderful--to have fun and touch people's hearts (performer) or to play that passage seamlessly (practicer). But what does seamlessly actually mean? Or the idea of playing something "perfectly." Perfectly according to what exactly? Are you going to execute Tchaikovsky's 6th Symphony or perform it? I think that's where it is--you just can't plow through that, you have to perform it, breathe your life into it or let it breathe life into you--(with that piece, who knows!). That's the thing though, in that mind set, there is no room to worry about playing out of tune or worrying about your sound or making a fool of yourself in front of an audience. It's almost like taking off a pair of dark glasses and seeing in color when you can perform instead of being such a fuss. Ultimately, we ARE performers. Shakespeare said, "All the world's a stage." So perhaps we should get out and perform! I know that's exactly what I need to do. I will practice performing until that's just what I do every time I pick up my instrument. My scales are just begging to be played with joy or despair or something at least besides monotony!