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Stage Fright

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Standing in the center of the gym, listening to the crowd cheering and clapping, I was terrified. I could see my parents, anxiously waiting in the crowd, wondering how this would turn out. The judges stared expectantly, waiting for me to start my routine. My breathing started to come faster and faster and I fidgeted nervously, trying to take my mind off what I was about to do. Right before I was about to begin my routine, my coach gave me a few last words of encouragement, “Just think about how many times you have practiced this, just relax. You can do it.”
When I started gymnastics, I had already made up my mind that I never wanted to compete. I was frightened of performing in front of an audience and judges. I was a perfectionist, and did not want to mess up in front of a crowd. Even outside the gym, I never volunteered to give presentations, and rushed through my speeches when I was forced to give one. When I finally reached a competitive level at the age of ten, my coaches gave me an option: compete a few meets during the year or wait until the next season to start competitions. I immediately chose to wait until the next year because I wanted to put off having to go to a meet and be the center of attention as long as possible. When the first competition of the season came, I hoped all week that it would be canceled. At the meet, instead of focusing on the routines I had practiced, I stared at the number of people watching from the bleachers, but as I began my routine, I forgot about the crowd and judges. I fell in to the familiar repetition of what I did in practice. I realized that competing was not as bad as I thought it would be and that I actually enjoyed showing off everything I had worked on all year at the gym. After that meet, gymnastics made me realize that I needed to confront my fears. The rest of the season I was still nervous at every competition, but I began to enjoy performing. Slowly I began to smile during my floor routine, or remember the little corrections on uneven bars. I became more comfortable trying to do everything as best I could, instead of just going through the motions just to get it over with. Getting over my fear of being the center of attention helped me with my gymnastics, but also it helped me with what I did outside of the gym. At school, while giving an English speech, I waited my turn nervous, but confident that I would do well. The more presentations I had to do, the less anxious I became. Because I overcame my fear of performing in front of an audience, I learned that if I confront my fears, they would eventually go away.





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