To understand why stage fright can strike even at times that seem inconsequential, we need to consider the three primary factors that are always at play whenever we experience it.
The first factor is that you do something in front of others. With stage fright, it’s some sort of performance. With speech fright, it’s an aural presentation, lecture, interview, or the like. With the type of competitive anxiety experienced by athletes, it’s a public competition of one kind or another.
The second factor behind stage fright is that those who you are in front of judge you or at least you feel they’re doing so. In some situations, the judgement is formal, as during an audition or competition. Audiences judge informally too. They do so by how enthusiastically they applaud, cheer, and sometimes even boo.
The third factor behind stage fright is that the judgment constitutes a threat, real or imagined. This part tends to be overlooked in explanations about stage fright, but it’s crucial. Stage fright doesn’t arise unless you perceive some sort of threat.