Friday, March 31, 2017

Anxiety Performance

I have been anxious in social situations for as long as I can remember.  Interacting with people I don't know well or being in places with large crowds drains my mental and physical energy. For the longest time, I accepted this as something that I could not change. This limited my life experience and I imagine that I have missed out on connecting with some awesome people. Through loads of self reflection and a lot of help from kind therapists and my support network of friends and family, I started to think about ways I could combat my social anxiety and interact with more people.

I have always enjoyed music and can't count the number of ways it is helpful to me. Years ago, I went to my first electronic music event and I discovered that even though the venue was crowded with people I didn't know, I really wasn't too anxious. I was excited to repeat the experience, which is a far cry from the attitude I normally have about social events. It helped that the electronic music scene is generally accepting and didn't seem to be bothered by my Tourettes or anxiety. After attending a few events, I wanted to become more involved with the scene and more involved with the music that I had come to love. Several people suggested to me that I take up DJing.  At first, I was very opposed to the idea. While I did have a lot of knowledge and passion for music, I felt like being in front of a crowd would be too difficult.  I had doubts in my abilities and was afraid of being ridiculed.

I sat on the sidelines for a long time.  I practiced DJing at home and found it therapeutic but I felt like I could be doing more. I finally convinced myself that I should be performing live and I just went out and did it.  It wasn't quite as simple as "just do it" but it wasn't terribly difficult either.  My first few live performances were pretty bad but I learned a great deal and as the years went on, I improved because I just kept doing it. Jake from the cartoon Adventure Time said "Sucking at something is the first step to becoming sorta good at something."  I believe this to be 100% true. If you pick up a new thing and you're instantly good at it, I feel like there is a loss of experience and growth.

Now, I am a DJ that regularly performs at shows and I have a weekly online radio podcast.  It took me a long time to get to where I'm at and I am by no means perfect at it.  I've been told I'm good, but I can always do better. The best thing that I have done in terms of managing my anxiety for myself is jumping in with both feet and pursuing something I was passionate about and always striving to learn more about it. Go out and do the thing, whether it be writing, drawing, painting, basket weaving, whatever. Show it to people and don't fear criticism.  Take constructive feedback for what it is and always strive to improve.  Find people that share what you are passionate about. Connect with them and be genuine with them. Even if it is just with a few people, the very act of sharing something creative with others helps train and strengthen the mind.

Anxiety doesn't have to be a barrier to creativity.  In fact, creativity often is a barrier to anxiety. I have found that anxiety often takes a back seat when confronted with creative passion.

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