Is stage fright an act of selfishness?

Actor Jonathan Pryce believes stage fright to be an act of selfishness. This is not my experience, I believe it to be a part of our survival instincts. Is survival selfish?
It is our strongest instinct, without it we would not have evolved to where we are today.

Stage Fright

Stage Fright Image

When faced with an audience, most of us suffer a level of Fight or Flight symptoms resulting from fear and imagined threats or judgement.
This results in shallow breathing, fast heartbeat, sweating, a sense of being out of our bodies, high pitched voice etc.

In practice, most of these would not be helpful to flee from an imminent threat.
However, that is where we have evolved to in the 21st century.

But, we are born confident !

Most young children have boundless energy and are without fear of speaking or “being seen”
The practicality of life means they are frequently conditioned to be “seen and not heard” within the family.

Within the education environment further ( necessary ) conditioning is put in place when they have to conform to the group expectations.
The net effect is for children to lose their spontaneity and gain an unconscious “check list” before speaking.
This “check list” may be very simple for children who experience their life in an emotionally supportive way.

However, if they experience bullying or suppression in any form, the “check list” may become more complex and the depth of their emotions around speaking may become more intense.

  • Is this the basis of stage fright and fear of public speaking?
  • Does this complex background remain with us throughout our lives?

Almost certainly, unless we are lucky enough to receive training to manage our mental and emotional interactions.

By experiential training in the relationship between our thoughts and emotions we can easily bypass years of conditioning, phobias, fear of speaking and quickly become confident.
That is my personal experience.

Back to the original question:

Is Jonathan Pryce correct when he says stage fright is selfish?

It is one opinion, but if suitable training had been available for him at the time, his internal distress could have been prevented.

I speak from personal experience of training people to become confident relaxed speakers and presenters as I have become following years of being a nervous speaker, frustrated at not being heard properly.

See the short video with Jonathan Pryce at:


What is your opinion?