Transferance in performance jitters

Being in science since 1986–which would mean about a quarter of a century since I began to study in university–I have spent a lot of time learning to communicate, both in writing and orally.

I’m not sure when I lost my jitters and nervousness at standing up in front of crowds of people and speaking, whether it occurred gradually over time, or whether there was a defining moment where I said to myself “This is not so frightening.” I do know that it’s been a long time since I had such stage fright–with the exception of my first book reading last year–which was an entirely new experience.

Yesterday evening I had the opportunity to listen to a music recital, in which my daughter participated, and I had a startling revelation. I just hadn’t really noticed or connected the dots. Every time one of my children performs (and it doesn’t matter what)–in school or community playhouse plays and musicals, in Taikwando testing–you name it and I’m suffering the jitters.

For those of you who have children, I’m curious as to whether you undergo the same stress?

But my startling revelation was that every time one of my students or postdocs presents her/his science in a forum outside the confines of our lab–I’m also sh*tting bricks, pardon the expression. Is this natural? Can anyone help me out? And will these jitters dissipate over time, or am I resolved to a life of endless new stressers as students and post-docs come and go from the lab?

About Steve Caplan

I am a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska where I mentor a group of students, postdoctoral fellows and researchers working on endocytic protein trafficking. My first lablit novel, "Matter Over Mind," is about a biomedical researcher seeking tenure and struggling to overcome the consequences of growing up with a parent suffering from bipolar disorder. Lablit novel #2, "Welcome Home, Sir," published by Anaphora Literary Press, deals with a hypochondriac principal investigator whose service in the army and post-traumatic stress disorder actually prepare him well for academic, but not personal success. Novel #3, "A Degree of Betrayal," is an academic murder mystery. "Saving One" is my most recent novel set at the National Institutes of Health. Now IN PRESS: Today's Curiosity is Tomorrow's Cure: The Case for Basic Biomedical Research (CRC PRESS, 2021). All views expressed are my own, of course--after all, I hate advertising.
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3 Responses to Transferance in performance jitters

  1. ricardipus says:

    Oh ye gods. The music recital *shudder*. I had to perform in too many of those, and I’d get nervous for all the other competitors, let alone myself(!).

    As for the kids… haven’t had that experience yet. School plays and whatnot haven’t been such a big deal (even when Jr. Ricardipus #2 sang a solo), but this December will be the first of the piano recitals. Argh. I’ll have to learn relaxation breathing or something between now and then.

    • Steve Caplan says:

      Believe it or not, I get nervous when I go to the symphony for a concert. Perhaps because the principal flutist is a good friend. But I’m at the point where I’d rather listen to a CD and not have to worry…
      Yet, as Henry noted, my own stage-fright is practically non-existent. Go figure…

  2. cromercrox says:

    I don’t get nervous before one of my daughters does a recital – I just get rather over-excited to the extent that the child concerned worries that I might embarrass them in public.

    As for myself – well, I’ve mis-spent so much of my youth and middle-aged in rock bands that the novelty of getting up on a stage and performing has long worn off. It’s okay to feel a little bit nervy – I find it sharpens up your performance and makes you concentrate – but it’s been an awfully long time since I had anything like stage fright. I realise that not everyone shares this view. I have a colleague who you’d have thought would be a natural performer. She’s fun, feisty, intelligent, sparky, articulate and always has lots to say. But the thought of standing up in public to give any kind of talk fills her with horror. I think it comes from having to defend her thesis in public, which is the custom in the Netherlands, where she got her doctorate.

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