How to Ease Social Anxiety: Don't Put So Much Pressure on Yourself!

Patient Expert

I usually get so anxious before any gig where I have to make a public appearance that I suffer for days and sometimes weeks ahead of time. Yet last night I had to host the reception for a solo show of my work in a local gallery and loved every minute of it. I used to make my daughter or Adrian accompany me to these events for moral support, but this time I said neither had to bother. And I wasn't anxious before the event, either.

What made the difference? When I first moved to Ithaca seven years ago, I had a show in a very large space and had huge expectations for it. I had attended an event for another artist in that space previously, and he had crowds at his reception. Naturally, I expected crowds at mine, too. This was my debut in Ithaca, and I had plenty of anxiety before hand. I asked both Adrian and my daughter to stay with me throughout the evening.

What I didn't realize was that the artist who had shown earlier was very well-known here, and most of the people who came to his reception were his friends and supporters. As a new resident, I knew no one and very few people came to mine. It was a dud.

Since then I've had other duds at Ithaca shows, and have found that my work sells much better in other parts of the country. I haven't exhibited locally in a long time, but thought it might be fun to do one when the non-profit gallery asked me to. There would be absolutely no pressure since I expected nothing. Also, since I've lived here for seven years now, I know a lot more people.

The reception last night was a social event where I was the star. Everyone loved the work and was eager to talk to me about it. Adrian and my daughter each showed up briefly, but I hardly had time to talk to them.

What I've learned from this experience is that taking the pressure off really helps to lower social  anxiety. Normally when hosting a reception for my art, I would make enormous demands of myself:

  1. You must dress, act, and sound like an artist (whatever that might be).
  2. You must talk brilliantly about your work.
  3. You must help the gallery sell their clients by being the kind of artist they would want to buy art from.

Wow, no wonder I always felt anxious and worried about my performance I just hope I can take this newfound low-key style with me to the next gig.