Mary WilliamsPiano Studio

Are You Nervous?

With the Spring Recital just around the corner, I've been reminded of something I often hear from parents and other teachers, "Are you nervous?"

So I ask you, "What does it mean to be nervous?"

We are gearing up to perform. Our hearts are beating faster than usual. We may have clammy hands. We may be breathing more shallow than usual, and our actions may be more fidgety. This is what most people might refer to as being 'nervous'. But when do we learn what 'nervous' is? Does it start when we are little, by our parents or teachers asking us before our piano recital, "Are you nervous?"

In my mind, 'nervous' has a negative connotation. If I'm nervous about something, it makes me less likely to want to participate in the event that is causing the nervousness.

For the average adult, I think this:
Nervous = YIKES! And when a child is asked by an adult, "Are you feeling nervous?" what the child hears is, "Are you freaking out yet? Because I would be!" --- even if the child has no reason to be freaking out because they are about to perform something they have been working on for a very long time.

So can we change the way we present 'nervous?'

What if kids everywhere never heard the word 'nervous?' When kids experience these adrenaline spells, what if we said, "Are you feeling excited?" 'Excited' to me mean anticipation for something upcoming. "My best friend is coming over for a play date this weekend. I am SO excited!" I have definitely heard that from my students before. "I'm so excited for my birthday party on Saturday!"

When we feel excited, don't we also get a similar adrenaline rush to 'nervous?' So why do we have to use different words for these similar bodily reactions?

Nervous indicates that there is something on the line. One might become nervous to present a new item at the board meeting because one may fear the item may not get accepted. One might feel nervous on one's first day of school because everything is new and one may not meet friends right away.

One may become nervous for a piano recital because one may make a mistake while playing a piece and 'everyone will notice." Well . . . so what? As piano players we are always making mistakes, but we must continue to go out and perform again. And again. And again. So what's the point of being nervous?

Well, the truth of the matter is, we cannot help it. It is our body responding to the idea of performing. Which is why I say, "Why not get EXCITED?" We are going to perform whether we like it or not, so let's get EXCITED about it! Let's throw away negative 'nervous' and opt for positive 'excited,' which to all of us means something good is about to take place.

So from now on, let's change our language. Let's put our faster pulse and our fidgeting fingers to use. Let's pretend we are Olympic athletes, and use our adrenaline rush to perform to record breaking achievements.

I'm excited just thinking about it!