It was to be a triumphant moment as a solo artist fo former One Direction member Zayn Malik, but stage fright got in the way He had returned to the UK to appear at the Summertime Ball at Wembley Stadium along with Ariana Grande and Little Mix. At the last minute, though, nerves got the better of him, and he canceled his appearance.
To his credit, Malik was forthright and even apologetic about why he bailed on his performance. He posted on Instagram:
To all those people who have been waiting to see me perform at the Capital Summertime Ball today. I flew into the UK last night to appear in my home country in front of my family, friends, and most importantly my UK fans.
Unfortunately, my anxiety that has haunted me throughout the last few months around live performances has gotten the better of me … with the magnitude of the event, I have suffered the worst anxiety of my career.
He went on to write, “I know those who suffer anxiety will understand, and I hope those who don’t can empathise with my situation.”
So, how is it that a veteran performer like Zayn Malik could experience such intense stage fright that he felt compelled to disappoint fans, renege on a contracted performance, and squander an important moment in his career?
Sadly, successful experience as a performer, even the sort of success Malik enjoyed with One Direction, doesn’t necessarily make one immune from stage fright.
With straightforward situations, acclimation often serves as an answer. You learn through experience that the source of your anxiety holds no real danger. When you do, your fear naturally melts away.
The Audience’s Judgment
Acclimation doesn’t tend to work with stage fright because the presence of an audience complicates things. Two criteria are at play when we experience stage fright. The first is that we do something in front of an audience. The second is that we are judged on it or at least feel we’re being judged.
And such judgment can often constitute a true threat. For Malik, it might be something like the audience deciding that he’s not as good of a performer solo as he was a member of One Direction (given what he says about his anxiety “throughout the last few months.” That could be a career-damaging judgment. It would also be quite understandable if he had such stage-fright inducing thoughts running through his head in the run up to the Summertime Ball.
So, what do you think? Are you a fellow sufferer of anxiety who understands Malik’s dilemma? If not, do you at least empathize with it?