performance anxiety

Psychologist Review: Giraffes Can’t Dance |How Can We Move Past Performance Anxiety|

Have you ever felt frozen? 


No one is a stranger to the hijacking of the brain with self-doubt. Standing up in front of a crowd, presenting with your camera turned on during a Zoom call, or the moment before you take the proverbial leap. The biological component of ‘feeling anxious’ is something we’ve all experienced (and shuddered at). It starts as children when we are about to perform in front of our friends, participate in our very first recital, or even own up to a mistake. 


It’s scary. 

But being scared is a real human experience. 


As a new mum who is also a practising psychologist, I'm constantly on the search for books to read my kid. Books that help in building empathy, identifying emotions, managing emotions and above everything else are pleasurable for me to read too! Giles Andre and Gu Parker-Rees take us through our anxious curve with Gerald, the long slim neck giraffe with bandy legs. Gerald decided to participate in the Jungle Dance only to hear the laughter of the other animals. The other animals, a lot like our inner voice, started to laugh at him and tell him he couldn’t do it. So Gerald did what most of us would do. He believed the laughter and ridicule. 


Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?


It’s just like how things get when we give into belittling thoughts and limit ourselves from facing our fears and embracing ourselves.


Gerald, similar to what most of us would do, jumped into his flight mode and ran away from the Jungle Dance - feeling almost defeated. He wandered through the jungle to find himself captured by the moon and ended up listening to the wisdom of the cricket. The cricket posed as The Wise One™ - the inner voice we should embrace and always remember. 


See, here’s the thing. We are not meant to fit in, we are meant to do what we desire in the way we desire to do it. Systems and structures are just guides to follow - it’s not always how it should be done (and sometimes it is good to break some norms). It is about stepping out of our over analytical brain, surrendering to the moment, connecting with ourselves and swaying to our own music. In short, tuning out the critical voices of performance anxiety, trusting yourself and doing it! 


Once Gerald embraced himself and swayed to his own music, all the animals gathered around him entranced, surprised, and hailed him the best dancer in the jungle. Now, even though this is a children's book, it addresses performance anxiety and the importance of embracing and working through your fears. 


A common concern most clients bring to therapy is the fear of failure that can be synonyms for ridicule and criticism. We need to tune out the berating voices (including our own) and embrace the encouraging sounds of trying and remember that it is okay! 

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Meet The Author

Meet the Author

Priyanka Varma

Priyanka believes emotional and mental health care are at the very core of us experiencing happiness in our life. Priyanka enjoys working with young adults and understanding life as it changes with intrusions like the internet and the pandemic. Above everything else her true love is homemade chocolate cake.

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