By Paul Cuneo
I’m going to assume that, if you’re reading this article, it’s because you deal with nerves before auditions, meetings or performances, especially in those last moments before you go into the room. I’m like you in that way. I go through the same thing. But I imagine that unlike you, it doesn’t bother me that I’m nervous. I don’t care.
In 2013 I booked four national commercials, I believe in large part because of the new attitude toward nerves I developed about three years ago. It started in an audition waiting room. I remember I was nervous and performing exercises I had read about that were supposed to eliminate, or at least mitigate, nerves. I was holding my breath, and then, when that didn’t work, I was focusing on my breathing. I was pressing my feet hard into the floor, sometimes pinching myself for extended periods of time. I was tensing my whole body, then releasing. I wasn’t imagining everyone in the room naked, as I had tried that before and it never worked for me. (My gosh, the number of things I had tried: thinking about nature, counting backwards by threes from 100, talking myself up, talking myself down. You name it, I had tried it.)
But that day, in that audition waiting room, something opened up in my consciousness, and I realized three things that radically and irrevocably changed my auditions for the better. I realized
1. that I was paying way too much attention to my nerves.
2. that I was judging myself for feeling nervous and anxious, and it was actually this judgment that was exponentially intensifying my anxiety.
3. that nerves could exist in me, along with everything else I was feeling in that moment, and not prevent me from doing what I came to do that day.
With those realizations, I made an immediate change to how I prepared for auditions while in the waiting room. That change took the form of four steps I’ll walk you through right now. I hope they help to free you as much as they helped to free me.