What is this? Nerves? Anxiety?

I think that there is a difference between being nervous and having anxiety.

I’m sure there’s a technical difference, but that’s not where I’m going with it today, so please just bear with me a moment.

I used to be a pretty high ranking corporate exec. C-suite, even. I’m only saying this for context, not pomposity. I was quite comfortable making decisions, analyzing situations, setting priorities, creating strategies, speaking up, giving presentations and the like. I still have a pretty healthy confidence in my ability to do these things.

Today, I have a couple of meeting timeslots and agenda items in a corporate context where I consult. The team is comprised of people that I work closely with, trust and even like a lot. They don’t “outrank” me. I’m not even presenting the whole time – a project team I led is doing most of the presenting.

And yet, I noticed that I had butterflies in my stomach.

Curious, that. What is it? One thing I know about myself is that I am not wired with anxiety. Sure, I can be uncomfortable in new situations or when dealing with uncertainty. But I am very, very lucky not to suffer from anxiety. So what is this nervousness?

I let it sit for a minute and realized it felt familiar. It’s the same thing I feel before a concert or a speaking engagement. I know what it is! It’s stage fright!

I understand stage fright.

It’s a combination of excitement, anticipation, and a dash of healthy nervousness. Stage fright tells me something useful. It tells me that I care about what I’m about to do. It matters to me. I want it to go well. I want to do well, and I want everyone else to do well, too. Because it’s important to me.

I find it helpful to name this feeling because then I understand that I’m only nervous because it matters—not because I doubt myself, not because I’m scared, not because I don’t trust the audience. It’s simply stage fright. I hope this distinction might help you, too.

In the meantime, remember these things: You are loved. We are all loved. Let’s all be kind. And in all things – progress, not perfection!

Love, and light in the pages,

Maggie

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