How Adele Manages Her Stage Fright

Last Updated: July 23, 2021

We recently came across an interesting story about how the singer Adele manager her stage fright & anxiety so that she can perform on stage in front of thousands when she’s on tour. Read on to find out how Adele uses an alter-ego to overcome her crippling stage fright.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know who Adele is. Chances are, you’ve even tested your vocal skills singing along to her at a party, in your car, or in the shower.

She is one of the most popular and beloved artists of our time. Her powerful voice and melodious tunes have earned her over 15 Grammys, more than 120 million in record sales, and sold-out arenas all around the globe.

And despite this incredible level of success, she has suffered from stage fright. If it seems hard to imagine that someone as talented and successful as her would go through stage fright, then read on.

We’ll discuss how stage fright works, and why someone even as successful as Adele can be susceptible to it. We’ll also cover the mental tactics she uses to keep her performance anxiety at bay.

Adele and her stage fright

The only reason I’ve toured is you,” and “I’m not sure touring is in my bag.

That’s what Adele told her fans during her final concert on a tour in Auckland, New Zealand. She was referring to her struggles with stage fright and how it almost kept her from performing in front of live audiences [1].

In an interview with Rolling Stones Magazine, Adele describes her performance anxiety a bit more vividly.

“I’m scared of audiences,” Adele tells the interviewer [2]. “I get sh**ty scared. One show in Amsterdam, I was so nervous I escaped out the fire exit. I’ve thrown up a couple of times. Once in Brussels, I projectile-vomited on someone. I just gotta bear it. But I don’t like touring. I have anxiety attacks a lot.”

She explains that her anxiety stems from the fear that her fans might come to think that she isn’t the talented performer they expected.

But how could that be? Surely, the sold-out arenas, the awards, and all the other accolades are sufficient evidence that she can captivate audiences and crush performances.

Unfortunately, stage fright doesn’t work like that. It’s not a conscious and rational thought process that leads to anxiety. It’s happening more at the unconscious and instinctual level.

Let’s take a look at what may cause stage fright.

What are some potential causes of stage fright?

Stage fright is complex. There are various physical, mental, and emotional factors that can be at play.

We don’t know specifically what causes stage fright in Adele’s case, but let’s take a quick look at some potential factors.

Negative thought patterns

If you internalize negative expectations about how an audience would react to you, eventually it becomes a part of your habitual unconscious thought patterns.

You might have had a bad experience with a performance at a young age, and maybe you felt rejected and humiliated.

Events such as this can have long-lasting effects and contribute to stage fright as an adult. To protect you from similar experiences in the future, your body reacts to the idea of a performance in the same way as it would to a real threat to your safety [3].

Upbringing factors

There are things in your childhood that can affect the likelihood of stage fright later in life.

For example, if you had overly critical parents, or if you were bullied as a child. These events might have led to painful feelings of rejection, and you subconsciously still try to avoid those feelings as an adult.

People who were bullied or didn’t get enough validation from parents, teachers, etc. are also more likely to experience social anxiety disorder (SAD) and tend to be more prone to performance anxiety [5].

Brain physiology

Some people are physiologically more susceptible to anxiety, and it usually runs in the family.

The amygdala is a part of the brain that regulates emotions and stress. Having a hyperactive amygdala can increase your likelihood of experiencing stage fright. You could be predisposed to an exaggerated fear response, which could lead to performance anxiety [4].

Everyone’s stage fright is unique

As mentioned before, we don’t know the root causes behind Adele’s stage fright. But we do know that she told Rolling Stones Magazine that she fears the audience would be less than impressed with her performance [2].

So, regardless of the cause, it comes down to the fear of rejection, and the fear of letting her fans down.

Let’s discuss some of the tactics she has shared about how she overcomes stage fright to get through her concerts.

How does Adele manage her stage fright?

To keep her anxiety under control, Adele took a page from another fellow musician who also happens to deal with stage fright; Beyonce!

Yes, you read that right. Beyonce has experienced stage fright! But that’s another topic for another day.

The tactic Adele took from Beyonce was to assign herself an alter ego – Sasha Fierce [6].

Unlike Adele, Sasha Fierce is…well…fierce, and she does not know what performance anxiety is.

It’s a psychological hack backed by science where you distance your feelings from your behavior by assigning the feelings to a third person, in this case, an alter ego.

Adele is able to detach herself from her fears of rejection by thinking of how Sasha Fierce would respond in such a situation. And since she is fierce, she has no fear of the audience, and she thrives during a performance.

It’s important to keep in mind, that just like stage fright, the solutions and strategies to solve it are also unique for each person.

If you experience stage fright, the best thing to do is to speak to a clinical psychologist that can dig deeper for the root causes, and recommend a plan of action that would suit you best.

What are some other ways to keep stage fright under control?

Here are some of the most common and proven tactics to put the breaks on that feeling of nervous overwhelm before a performance.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT has been proven to be effective against various types of social anxiety [7]. You’ll work with a therapist who will break down your thoughts about performing into smaller parts, and replace the bad thoughts with positive feelings.

There’s homework involved, but for those who follow through, it has been shown to be one of the most long-lasting solutions.

A pre-performance routine

You could adopt a pre-performance routine. Whether it’s breathing exercises, meditation, high-intensity workouts, or anything else that calms your nerves, the idea is to “prime” your mind and body for performance.

Eventually, your body will automatically recognize it’s time to perform and get ready for it. Think of it as taking control of your physical and emotional responses, instead of letting fear and anxiety take the lead.

Brain-boosting supplements

For extra support, take a brain-boosting & anxiety-reducing supplement. We currently really like PerformZen.

It combines various ingredients that work synergistically to support calmness and cognitive function. It will help calm the chatter in your mind and keep stressful thoughts at bay, so you can stay focused, and deliver a rocking performance even if you’re under pressure.

If Adele can manage her stage fright; can you?

We wanted to share Adele’s stage fright story to let you know that even the most successful performers can experience performance anxiety.

So, if you experience stage fright, you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself. It is not a matter of lack of preparation or even evidence of the fact that your audience doesn’t love your performances.

It could very well be your body’s defense mechanism in action trying to protect you from pain or rejection based on past negative experiences.

But the good news is that you can take steps to overcome. Whether it’s mental tactics like Adele, cognitive-behavior-therapy (CBT), a pre-performance routine, beta blockers or supplements, you can overcome stage fright and become the performer you’re meant to be.

Take a look at our other guides

What is Performance Anxiety? What causes performance anxiety, what are the symptoms, and can you overcome performance anxiety?
The Science of Stage Fright - how to understand & conquer stage fright
How to overcome stage fright - a complete guide
Glossophobia or the Fear of Public Speaking
How to Overcome Audition Anxiety

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PerformanceAnxiety.com Owner & Lead Writer

Anita is the owner and lead writer for PerformanceAnxiety.com. A seasoned musician and public speaker herself, she is no stranger to the very real fear and anxiety that can strike right before a high-pressure situation. That's why Anita is passionate about writing content that helps people learn about and overcome their anxieties & social fears so that they can perform at their best when it counts and live anxiety-free lives.