7 Reasons You Can’t Perform At Your Best When You’re Nervous

7 Reasons You Can’t Perform At Your Best When You’re Nervous

Let’s imagine that you have an audition coming up. You haven’t had a good one in a while and this time you’re perfect for it. It’s got your name written all over it. Your agent is clearly hoping you’ll get this one and your family has started making jokes about what you do for a full-time job.

Now you really want to get the role. Prove your agent is right to keep you. Shut up unsupportive family members. You really want to get that role. You’re going to get nervous. If you didn’t care, you wouldn't get nervous. But you do care. You really want it. But because you are nervous, you'll struggle. Why?

Here are seven reasons. 


Your mind and body perceive the situation as a threat. It’s a long time since you had to outrun bears and wolves, but the body and mind are going to respond just like you are in danger. It might be an overreaction, but that won’t stop it happening. The moment you step into the audition room, you’re under threat and you react accordingly.


One of the first things you feel is your throat muscles, lungs and chest constricting. Your body is preparing for threat. So just at the time that you need to use your voice, your body is fighting against you, preparing for rapid physical reaction. Ever wondered why teachers and coaches keep droning on about the importance of warm up? To combat the restrictive effects of muscular tension.


The next thing you experience is sweating. Your body is heating up by sending lots of blood to the main organs in preparedness to respond to the threat. Ironically, as the body draws blood away from the extremities, your hands feel cold, but they are still sweating.



Ever wondered why it’s easy to lose focus when you’re auditioning? Well, it’s simple. Your body is behaving like there’s a threat. Your mind is primed to respond to anything that happens. Your hearing improves. Your vision picks up tiny changes in the environment. Just as you are meant to be focused and ‘in the zone’, your body and mind are wired for changes in your environment and suddenly, if the casting director lifts a pen, your senses hone in on it.


When you walk into that audition and your body and mind respond like something bad is going to happen, you actually start perceiving the world differently. How do we know? Well, the normal alpha brain waves are replaced by beta brain waves. This alters your perception of time, space and distance. Every felt like you were taking your time, but all the feedback is that you were speeding? This is why.


Under the pressure of an audition, our analytical brain starts to take over. It is trying to imagine scenarios and come up with solutions to solve them. Instead of being calm and focused, your mind is fogged by too much thinking.


Stressed people, feeling the pressure automatically start behaving in a risk-averse way. They start trying to avoid risk. That means they don’t rise to the challenge of the audition, they lean away from it. You can’t do your best work if you are scared to do something wrong.

So, if you’re going to avoid your body and mind responding like this, you’re going to have to prepare for the audition in a way that keeps your mind and body calm.

Are you working to develop your inner game of acting while preparing for auditions? Take the first step by downloading my book the 12 Obstacles for free here now.



Mark Westbrook teaches the Inner Game of Acting course at Acting Coach Scotland

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The 12 Obstacles

One of the biggest obstacles to a successful acting career is the inner critic, the voice in your head, but there are many more.

In this free advice guide, Acting Coach and Performance Psychology expert Mark Westbrook outlines the most common inner obstacles to success and offers you insightful and practical tools for overcoming them.

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