How to Handle Stage Fright with Nancy Bos – Episode 38

Nancy Bos, voice and performance expert, and founder and CEO of StudioBos Media, she empowers people to overcome the fear of using their voices on stage, speaking up at meetings, or even in their personal life - through working with a person’s subconscious saboteurs. Nancy is also the author of several best-selling books, including her latest: Singing Through Change: Women’s Voices in Midlife, Menopause, and Beyond.

Nancy Bos, voice and performance expert, and founder and CEO of StudioBos Media, she empowers people to overcome the fear of using their voices on stage, speaking up at meetings, or even in their personal life – through working with a person’s subconscious saboteurs. Nancy is also the author of several best-selling books, including her latest: Singing Through Change: Women’s Voices in Midlife, Menopause, and Beyond. While building a career as an expert voice teacher, with over 25,000 hours with clients, Nancy has seen that our subconscious stories have incredible power when it comes to our success.  She encountered this herself when she overcame severe stage fright that changed the trajectory of her life. Now Nancy empowers everyone who is afraid to speak out or sing, to use their voices to their fullest potential. Through her company, StudioBos Media, she supports this work with books, articles, podcasts, events, and more. Nancy is also the author of several of her own best-selling books, including:

Singing Through Change: Women’s Voices in Midlife, Menopause, and Beyond

The Teen Girl’s Singing Guide

Singing 101: Vocal Basics and Fundamental Singing Skills


Connect with Nancy


Facebook: nancybos

Instagram: @nancy_e_bos/

Twitter: @studiobosmedia

YouTube: @nancyebos


00:03Welcome, everyone to the resonate podcast. I’m Aideen and my guest today is Nancy Bos. Nancy is a voice and performance expert, founder and CEO of studio boss media, she empowers people to overcome the fear of using their voices on stage, speaking up at meetings and even in their personal life. And she does that through working with a person’s subconscious saboteurs. Nancy is also the author of several best-selling books, including her latest singing through change women’s voices in midlife menopause and beyond. You’re very welcome, Nancy.

0:38  Thank you so much for having me on your show. I’m delighted to be here.

0:42  I’m really honored. You’re such an inspiration to me, especially writing all those amazing books. And you’ve had an amazing career around voice. Tell us a little bit about that journey for you. Hmm,

1:00  well, the journey started when I was the kid in my small town who was the best singer who usually got the solos, and decided then that well, then if I’m such a singer, if that’s how I’m identified, then I should probably go to school for singing, right. And that didn’t go so well, because I started to get severe performance anxiety. It started actually, when I was in junior high, I actually got to do a TED talk about this. But my performance anxiety started as related to piano and flute. But it transferred over to my singing voice. And I wasn’t able to complete my college degree in singing, I switched to arts administration, graduated from college, couldn’t find a job in arts administration, and eventually managed a lady footlocker store. It wasn’t until 12 years later, when I was working in music, I became a voice teacher at the age of 28. So I was the voice teacher who loved to sing and loved working with my students. But I felt like a fraud, because I couldn’t actually perform because of the severe performance anxiety. So at age 35, at age 34, I realized I need to overcome this, I do not want to go to my grave with this issue. And that’s what I discovered, the things that you and I share that we know that we can help people empower their voices, by helping them understand the root of their fear. That’s what happened for me. And that’s what we help people do now.

2:35  It’s so interesting, because I also didn’t get to do what I wanted to do with singing. And I actually wanted to do acting straight out of school and was discouraged and then always wanted to do something with music. But it didn’t, it wasn’t my own performance anxiety, it was actually a belief in my mind that, you know, you can’t do that, that music is not a relevant career, it’s not something that you should put your time into. And I also went back to college, in my 30s, to study music. But even then, it was like, you know, putting blood out of a stone. It’s like, oh, like two steps forward, five steps back. So it’s interesting. When we have a creative passion or something that drives us, it can take us on an interesting journey, especially when there are roadblocks along the way.

3:34  Absolutely. Because it’s such a vulnerable thing, right. And so when we went to a creative performer live, and in the moment, holy cow, if you don’t have your mindset lined up, that can be a deal killer. There are people whose mindsets are not lined up who do just fine. And so this isn’t impacting everyone the same way. But with you and me, that was that was what it took. So it sounds like yours. It was a money mindset. Maybe with me, it was more of a fear of rejection of judgment, different fears, but basically, that bottom level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and that is survival. Can I survive doing this? And our sub consciousness thought, no, no, we can’t.

4:21  Yeah, exactly. But at the same time, there’s a pull to do it. And then there’s it’s an internal struggle. And I don’t think we’re the only people to experience internal struggles. I think most of the listeners will have had some as they went along. Tell me what approach you took then when you started to really decide to face that performance anxiety. Where did you go to get that help?

4:46  Yeah, the steps that I took are pretty, pretty basic steps that most people would have to go through so I’m happy to share them. The first one is to find the source of the problem. And some people call this shadow work. Some people call this personal narratives other people call it, in my case, subconscious saboteurs. But what it is, is, there’s a story, oftentimes from your childhood, but maybe not maybe from your adult that has caused you some trauma, or deep fear around what you’re trying to pursue. So you have to discover that story, look at it and decide if it is worthy of you having the fear anymore. For me, absolutely not. I did my discovery through hypnosis. So I had a hypnotist who helped me discover these childhood stories. There’s other ways to tackle that, though, with therapy or other spiritual practices. After that, after you’ve seen that story, so that every time it pops up in your head, you can say, no, no, no, you don’t get to own the day, no go away. You don’t make sense, you don’t belong, and you have to do that consciously, though, because in both of our cases, it’s sat in our bodies for over 10 years, right. And so this fear response is now completely habituated into our bodies and the way that we react. So it will keep popping up and each time it pops up and you fight it back, it gets weaker and weaker, until it doesn’t show up anymore. So that is what is traditionally called exposure therapy. And that’s when you just keep doing it until you get over the illogical reaction. And then the third piece for me, and I think this is not essential, but I do advise that people is to have somebody that you greatly admire who believes in you, even more than you do sometimes. So for me, I had two different mentors. One was a choral director, and one was my singing teacher, who both knew that I needed to be up there on the stage, and that I deserve to be and this was what they wanted me to do. And who was I to question these two people have tremendous authority and power. And so having that kind of belief was the last step. So that I no longer get nervous at all, in any situation that I’ve been in when it comes to using my voice. Great. I won the day. So that’s, that’s the three in a nutshell, it’s finding out what the source is, and disarming the source, and then exposure therapy. And then on top of that, if you can have somebody that in moments of weakness, because it never actually completely goes away, somebody else’s voice that’s encouraging you. That’s the three steps.

7:34  Wow, that’s like the magical formula. That’s the

7:36  magical formula.

7:40  But I think awareness does bring a change, regardless, just the awareness gives you a choice.

7:49  And that to face it or not,

7:51  yes, yeah. So what I like often, I’d say to people that when I teach singing, it’s I all I want to do is give people choices, because we have so many, so many ways that we can actually do things, we might think that that classical guitar can only be played for classical music, but I can tell you put it in the hands of a rock and roller, they will get rock and roll out of that guitar. And we have choices to express ourselves in different ways at different times. But we don’t feel we have that choice.

8:24  Yeah, we have every choice. I believe that each of us was put here in this lifetime in this body for a purpose. I know that everyone believes that. But still, it’s a heck of a lot more fun. Even if you’re an atheist who thinks there’s no purpose, it’s a lot more fun to think you have a purpose, you know, pick something and stick with it. So thinking that you have the purpose is really the power behind. Empowerment, I, the formula that I use, is that fear plus excitement equals stage fright or performance, anxiety or anything else in life like it actually, if you have excitement to do this, that is a positive energy. It’s fabulous. You’re excited. If at the same time you have fear, those two energies clash, and they create the friction. That is nervousness. That’s how I picture it in my head. So if you have fear and excitement, you get nervousness. And the example that I would use is if I were afraid to jump out of an airplane with a parachute. And yet I really want to do it, which is true. This is true in me. I am both freaked out and super excited at the same time. Therefore I am justifiably nervous and I have not signed up and paid to do it yet because of this nervousness, right? Yeah. If it were just excitement if I had already jumped out of a plane 20 times and I knew that it was amazing, there’s no fear, I just go out and do it another time, you know, and the fear is eliminated. So any place in our lives that we’re experiencing fear, we need to look at it. And we can, as you say, choose to disarm the fear so that the nervousness goes away.

10:18  When I can bring this back to the other point you were making about purpose and empowerment, because the time that I jumped out of a plane, for real, for real, in tandem with someone, yes, it was a charity, you know, it was for charity. So that gave a purpose to me, basically, and you don’t jump out of a plane, by the way, anyone who’s thinking about it, you literally throw yourself off the plane, you fall out of the plane. And I was here. So when you step onto the plane in order to fall off, I was sitting there breathing, you know, just like, Oh, I’m on a plane. This is interesting. What else? Yes, yeah, I was just, you know, staying present in the pre fall out of the plane moments. And then it was too late, I had to just go for it. You know, it was like, here you go, and off you go. So finding that purpose, finding that purpose can be a really positive way to disarm the fear. And I know that that’s very true for me in my working life, that when I realized how important I felt finding someone’s voice, or helping someone understand the value of their own voice, and that reading really matters, that each of us our voices really matters, even if we’ve never spoken before. Even if we’re being completely silent, your voice still matters, when I realized the depth that I believed that that purpose in me, took away a lot of my fear of putting up social media posts and doing little videos and all the things that as a business owner, I had to confront in some way. And I believe that those pieces of us that help us find our purpose can be a bit more obvious than we realize, because they already come back down to what do I value? What matters to me? And the message that you want to bring to the world that matters to you could be the key to overcoming any fears you may have?

12:29  Absolutely, I completely agree that I, I believe yes, we can just treat the symptoms of the fear. For instance, you’re being mindful in the airplane is similar to when I did have severe performance anxiety. One time I was 23, I think 24. And I needed to perform because I was part of this choir and the tiny little solo, I pretended that I was in what at the time was called the holodeck a 3d chamber where the audience was entirely made up. And I wasn’t really there, right. And so that was me treating the symptom of the fear in the moment, but not getting to the root cause. But when you have a purpose that’s greater than yourself, that’s higher than anything else, then your ego gets out of the way. All those fears are ego based. The fears are not coming from your greater purpose. They’re not coming from your soul and your spirit. So when you can let your purpose shine through, yes, and the fears tend to melt away. And you can actually live a fear free life, if you are elevated enough in your purpose and your mission.

13:44  I love that. I can’t say I’m fear free 100% of the time, but it certainly has changed the way that I operate. And I tend to fall out of more metaphorical planes than I ever did. I’m like, oh, yeah, I’ll just do this now.

14:03  What’s the worst that could happen? Yeah,

14:05  very, it’s like that. Really, it is. And so tell me a little bit about the kind of books you’ve written and the kind of work that you’re most passionate about.

14:15  You know, the first book that I wrote was singing one on one. And I wrote that as a CD set back in 2005 for people to listen to in their cars, and about 12 years later, transcribed it and self-published it. And that little book, now six years old, sells so well. It’s only 70 pages, but it is an impactful 70 pages on how to carry your body for optimal singing, breathing resonance posture. In very simple language. That has been quite a gift. Actually I had to put away my ego to publish a simple 70 page book but it was what I was called to do. And, it has been a gift to me and many, many, many other people. Otherwise, I’ve written the teen girl singing guide, because so many teenage girls have so much passion around singing, and they don’t know what to do with it. And so that book actually outlines potential paths. Based on the Myers Briggs Personality types, you know, my friend is going to be in the musical should I be in the musical, I want to say lead in a rock band, but my mom doesn’t want me to should I should I major in music in college, that kind of discussions with these Myers Briggs characters, cartoon characters walking through the book with the girls.

15:37  They’re fascinating.

15:39  It was a lot of fun to write, I will say, because my daughter, who’s now 24, about 12 years ago, got a chronic illness that kept her from going to school for years. And so with me, suddenly, being a homeschooling mom and taking her to medical appointments, I wasn’t able to teach very much, but I held on to six teenage girls, and all, you know, they would cycle through this day for a few years or four years, then the next one. And all of them had basically the same questions. And so I realized, you know, they could use a guide for all of them.

16:16  I’m so glad you did that. Because that’s just so powerful. And to bring it down to your strengths as well, just start to help a young person understand that they have natural strengths that they can lean into, rather than looking at their favorite version of what they want to do. And try to follow that path.

16:39  Yes, figuring out who they are, and what their path is. Absolutely.

16:43  Yeah, I think that young kids, and especially teens, actually have instincts to what they would like to do that a lot of adults don’t give enough significance to. And I really, that makes me so sad, because I feel like when we’re around, you know, in our teens, and we start to have these, we’ve discovered what we’re curious about, or what we’re passionate about. Those things can lead us on really distinctive and interesting journeys with careers, that and you know, prosperous careers as well that maybe aren’t typical, but could be very rewarding. And I hope any parents listening, give space for that for their own kids.

17:31  Absolutely. I think that I am probably the first professional singer in the entire history of my family. So there’s no precedence for that. But also, thinking historically, it’s only in the last, I don’t know, 60 years, that people born in first world countries actually get to do whatever they want to do. And so no wonder there’s cultural narratives that hold us back. You know, there’s still the cultural narratives, unfortunately, that women should be teachers, that doctors and lawyers make the most money. Both of those statements are untrue. Now, they may have been true in 1945. But they’re no longer true. And so we have to be willing to look at those cultural narratives and decide if they actually fit or not just like our personal narratives.

18:22  Yeah. And it comes down to that whole thing of even how our mind is wired. And a lot of parents that have never seen someone who works as a scriptwriter for a movie, they’re not going to think that their kid can do it because they’ve never met anyone who’s ever done that job. So there are lots more, there’s a lot more opportunity out there. If we go looking for it, I think. Absolutely. And I’m a great believer in being in the industry that you find riveting and exciting. So if you love music, you don’t necessarily need to be on the stage. You can be the stage manager, you can be the press officer for a band, you know, I feel like getting into the right industry can be very rewarding in itself.

19:10  Absolutely. Some of my high school students have gone on to work in Nashville and La as booking agents or for booking agents. And so they know talent because they are talent. But they don’t want to be in front of the microphone. They want to be behind the desk.

19:25  Oh, that’s just so good. It’s so interesting. I’m just so glad that your book is reaching that age group. Yeah. So yeah. Tell us more about your other books.

19:36  Well, the most recent one I wrote with two colleagues Joanne Bozeman, and Kate Fraser Neely, and it is called singing through change, women’s voices in midlife menopause and beyond. And this is giving empowerment and permission to women on the other side of the spectrum, not the teen girls but the older women who find that their voices have changed because of changes to estrogen and progesterone during their midlife years, and then some aging voice issues as well. And especially women in their 40s Oftentimes start to notice little changes to their bodies and to their voices that get worse as they get closer to menopause, or they just get their voices maybe even get better. And then all of a sudden, like mine did call off, fall off what’s called a hormonal cliff, where everything was going great. And then in a period of three months, I needed a microphone in order to sing over a pit orchestra, which I’d never needed in my life. So the book has been really amazing, especially with the emergence of menopause as being something that we can and should talk about, because half of the world’s population goes through menopause. And so this has been quite a ride with singing through change, and the impact that it’s having,

20:54  oh, it’s so great, because I joined a choir that, you know, when I moved to a new place, and yes, I wasn’t doing anything in the community until I joined this choir. And there are people in that choir that have been in the choir for 40 years. And there’s quite a number of whiteheads, there’s a row of white haired people, you know, and they sing just as well, some of them as the younger people, then there, there are a couple that maybe don’t think they don’t have as much control or whatever, but they are all singing pitch. They’re all able to keep up. And I just find it fascinating. I got a ride from my home to choir and my, my choir friend is 94 She’s giving me a ride to choir and she’s been in the choir inquires her whole life. And I just think there’s so much value to being involved in something like that, for that longevity to

21:49  that at any age, the physical therapy of singing in a choir is worth it as well, you know that the lung expansion and the flexibility that’s required in the mental flexibility and just sharing your spirit with other humans and trying to cooperate being at a team instead of being independent. There are fantastic reasons to stay in a choir, but I will say there’s a difference between aging voice and menopause voice. Because any woman can go into menopause at any point in her life after puberty, it can be caused by some kind of physical issues, or chemotherapy in your teens, 20s or 30s. Early, early onset menopause happens to women in their 30s, where they actually enter menopause. And menopause has a really big effect on the vocal folds. And so yes, aging voice is a huge issue. Menopause is a separate issue that really can be a problem for some women, not all but some.

22:45  Yeah. So yeah, this is really great that you’re, you’re writing about this and talking about this. A lot of people it doesn’t matter, male or female, we sometimes use our voice or sing and don’t like what we hear. Right? And that can be really frustrating. So people who would like to speak in a certain way or speak in front of groups, or they want to start singing. They just don’t know how to, to hear what they would like to hear. Or they might hear what they’d like to hear sometimes, and not other times. Do you have any advice for anyone like that?

23:24  While I’m listening to that, and hearing that there’s judgment involved, right, that they’re judging their voices to be unworthy. And anytime that we’re looking at judgment, it’s worth asking why? Why am I feeling like a judgment is appropriate right now. I like to give the extreme example of do you sound better than Willie Nelson. Now, Willie Nelson is a US based country singer with a gravelly voice he can only sing a half dozen notes before you ask to take a breath. And yet that man has made millions of millions of dollars and he impacts people every day with his voice. So if you sound better than Willie Nelson, then there is nothing stopping you from put your voice out there. So why do you feel you need to judge yourself? If on the other hand, there is something about your voice that is getting in the way, maybe it’s painful, or you don’t have enough stamina, or enough people have told you that your voice is a problem that you want to listen to them. There are so many voice coaches, there are speaking voice coaches, stage voice coaches and singing voice coaches. You can put in just a little bit of effort, and you’ll have the confidence that you need going forward.

24:38  Yeah, I’ve been working a lot with voice and breath because I feel like I’m getting I’ve been talking to people who would mainly want to improve their speaking voices and asking them to hum a phrase that they normally speak and to feel the connection between the words because there’s just something very melodic in some people’s voices that makes you feel very comfortable and very relaxed, and you can really absorb the information they’re saying, and then sometimes things are a little disjointed or which can feel a little bit harder to absorb information would you have that opinion to or a different way of looking at it?

25:21  I wonder if what you’re saying is true for people who don’t sing actively? Are they less attached, you know, to those vocal skills, there is, with our neurology with our brains, there is a separation that is possible between speaking and singing. But those of us who sing actively, we have more of a bridge between singing and speaking. So it’s much easier for us to access the colors and emotions of our voices.

25:51  That’s interesting, very interesting. Colors. I’ve already said that word colors, the colors of your voices are so beautiful. And I really feel like if we think of our voice purely as an instrument, that, you know, it can be used in different ways. And with skills, it can be used with more skill. And I think that people forget this, they sometimes think that, oh, you either have a good voice or you don’t.

26:21  And a lot of our voice is learned from modeling. The people who raised us, right, however they spoke is going to have a big influence in how we speak. Well, if you don’t put any conscious thought into it that will remain in place for the rest of your life. But if you put conscious thought into it, then absolutely you can have control over how your voice sounds. Now, I had an interesting conversation with a woman. Just last week, she works for me as an intern, she lives in Nigeria, and she wrote an article for me for World voice day. And in that article, she said that as a black woman raised in Nigeria, like everybody else in school, they had special teachers who taught them to speak white. But now she chooses to use her own voice. Oh, they actually had speaking coaching in her high school in Nigeria for all the students. Interesting.

27:13  That’s so interesting. And so interesting that she labeled it as speaking white versus black as well.

27:20  Yeah, with a capital W, I will add.

27:24  That scares me a little bit. A little uncomfortable.

27:26  Nonetheless, the point taken that she has learned by her culture, how to speak but then she was taught to speak a different way. And she’s fluent in both. And that is something that we can all do. I did take voice over lessons for a while. So singing lessons are very different from voice over lessons. It’s fascinating. Why tell me more. In singing lessons, you’re taught to elongate your vowels, right. And so if I speak like I sing, I will elongate my vowels and drop my jaw. However, for voiceover, they usually want a casual voice. And so you use your consonants more. And you go ahead and just end the phrase, when it’s done. You don’t try to stretch things out, much less formal. And I really had to learn how to not enunciate quite so well, for voiceover work,

28:15  especially if you’ve been in a choir, I think I’ve had to help people to unlearn. And I’ve had to relearn it for the choir recently. Speaking German with extra pronunciations was fun, actually, it was fun. But I’ve always loved languages. And so if we think of the way we speak in terms of like, just about connecting with the person in front of us, and using what will help you to communicate with the individuals you’re with, and then when you if you have people with you that are multiple cultural backgrounds, then there might be some translating needed, but to me, it’s about you know, matching what you how we communicate with what we feel will be received, right?

29:01  Yes, you’re back to purpose, what’s your purpose in being there? There’s one very famous speaker right now by the name of Seth Godin. And Seth Godin has a huge influence on the world of business and entrepreneurs. And yet he has kind of a small, tinny voice. And if Seth cared about his voice, if he was at all worried about it, it wouldn’t be out there making the world a better place. His purpose is greater than his ego around his voice. And that’s what I would wish for everyone that your purpose takes front and center so that your fears just fade away.

29:41  I’m basically saying Hallelujah here in the background. On that note, I think that that is a perfect ending for our session today. But I would like to invite you, Nancy, to do is there anything you will also want to say to the listeners today

29:58  Well, we’ve covered so much ground. And I’m glad we came back full circle to the purpose and, and fear. We, in some cultures, we talk about the voice as the fifth chakra, it’s a place that’s known to be a place where your energy can be blocked. And any of us who have felt that tightness in our throat or just can’t get the words out, you know, whether that’s in an important conversation with someone you love, or your boss, or from a stage. We know that feeling of fear when it sits in the throat. But it’s also telling us that there’s something really important there that’s causing excitement, or we wouldn’t have that friction. So dig a little deeper, look into that fear. Don’t just accept that that’s where it’s supposed to be. Dig a little deeper and find out what is holding you back. And why does it make sense? Or can you get rid of it? And just go ahead and do what you need to do?

31:02  Absolutely, yeah, there’s a path forward for each of us. And what is in our hearts that we want to say? Yeah, it really deserves to find an outlet.

31:15  Yeah, it says and the heart and the brain, the throat is right between those two. So a lot of times this tension is caused by the heart and the brain disagreeing. And so they need to agree.

31:29  Yeah, and this, I mean, I know we’re finishing up now. But it also comes down to sometimes what we feel in our body, it or we feel like that in our throat. We need to acknowledge what’s happening physically. And our brain then can go Oh, there’s more to this than meets the eye.

31:48  Absolutely. The body is so wise, it’s worth listening to.

31:52  Yeah. Thank you so much, Nancy, for being here. I will be putting your website and contact information in the show notes. And I would encourage people to follow Nancy buy her book, if you have a teen girl, go get that book for them. And we are so pleased that you’ve taken the time to listen to us today. It is an honor that our voices are being heard right now. Every voice needs someone to listen and if you’ve been listening to us, we thank you.

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