Maybe I’ll add to this post in the future, but the most helpful statements are sometimes the shortest.
Performance anxiety is not an illness – it is a symptom of an out-of-control inner critic.
How do you tame the inner critic? It’s a battle that every performer faces. Most successful musicians arm themselves with hours and hours of daily practice. Some add to this yoga, meditation, a specialised diet, exercise. Still, when you’re on stage, and the inevitable wrong note shows up, it’s like a snowball that just starts rolling. Anxiety kicks in as you imagine the audience tearing you apart for ruining their experience with that one wrong note, adrenalin starts to flow, hands start to turn into clubs ready to fight — this moment is when you can do something really spiritual. Remind yourself that you aren’t doing a puzzle, fitting each note into place like a sudoku matrix. You’re creating a world that exists one the soundwaves of your music.
Be critical in the practice room as you work through all the problem areas in a piece, but be kind you yourself during performance — even a performance you do for yourself. It comes down to mental discipline. Criticising yourself whilst performing is a sign of poor mental discipline. The audience wants you to create a world made of music in which they can happily inhabit for the duration of the performance, and the want you to succeed at it; to lead them there. You can’t do that unless you inhabit that world yourself, and you can’t inhabit that world if you’re yelling at yourself inside your head so loudly that you can’t hear your own music.
When you play, remember that you are your first audience member. Sit back and enjoy the performance!