All who accept Christian Science can testify to its wonderful influence in overcoming fears of every sort. Mrs. Eddy tells us how the fear of disease may be rooted out by the truth of being. She also says that "mortals progress slowly for fear of being thought ridiculous." Again she tells us that "we should master fear, instead of cultivating it" (Science and Health, pp. 197). Perhaps the greatest hindrance to progress in any career which involves one's appearing before audiences, is what has been aptly called "stage fright." No matter how gifted the speaker may be, no matter how well trained for the work in hand, or how well prepared for the special occasion, and no matter how small or how great the part to be played, if stage fright is entertained it will jeopardize the peace of mind of the performer and injure more or less the effort put forth. The argument that "there is nothing to be afraid of" has no weight with the afflicted one. He can truthfully say, "I know there is not," and yet he continues to tremble. What he needs is not condemnation for cowardice, either from friend or from conscience, but a means of overcoming his fears.

What after all, is stage fright? The dictionary definition, "timidity before an audience," is not satisfying; it leaves us just where we started. We want something that will not only reveal the falsity of the malady but provide a satisfactory means of escape. Stage fright may be considered as an exaggerated or a special form of bashfulness. Whether this bashfulness arises from diffidence, a phase of self-distrust, or from modesty, that quality of humility which understimates oneself in comparison with other, is of no consequence; the result is the same. But what is bashfulness other than supersensitiveness, a rooted conviction that one is attracting undue attention, that he has made a mistake, that he is making a spectacle of himself, that people are criticizing him adversely, or any one or several of a score of other self-raised, self-admitted, and self-sustained criticisms? The probability is that no such thing has occurred, is occurring, or will occur—expect where the person first gives way to these criticisms himself.

Let us, however, take an instance. At a parlor entertainment the one whose function it was to describe and announce the various parts of the little drama, was more affected by stage fright than the actors themselves. The reason was that she supposed a certain member of the audience would expect much more than she felt herself capable of doing, whereas this member was mentally commending her introductory and explanatory remarks more than the performance itself. Of course, at the time she could not know this, and was forced to pay the penalty in mental discomfort the whole evening through. This may make it more apparent that stage fright is due either to an erroneously admitted thought and not actual inability to meet the requirements of a certain situation, or that it results from an overestimate of the importance of the role one must play. The former is self-condemnation; the latter, egotism. Here is the foe. How shall the battle be fought? By facing the enemy, and fighting "not as one that beateth the air."

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August 19, 1911

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