Anxiety and Streaming: Taking the Leap

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I can’t tell you how long it took to finally force myself to click that button the first time, and then how long it took to keep myself from immediately clicking it again to stop the stream.

I would panic, a wild flash of WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING searing itself across the parts of my brain susceptible to acting on suddenly frayed nerves. The webcam would click off and my channel would, mercifully, go dark again. I would quickly delete the archived video of my failed attempt, close OBS – as if having it open after yet again backing out was somehow hypocritical – and then breathe, safe in offline obscurity and the comfort of my home. I was eventually able to overcome that cycle and begin my streaming “career.”

I’m confident you can do the same, with time and effort. For most, it won’t be easy. For some, it may be one of the hardest things you’ve had to force yourself to do.

I also want to make something else clear: there is no foolproof formula out there for triumphing over your anxiety as it relates to streaming. No “5 Ways to Overcome Your Anxiety and Start Streaming” article with a 100% success rate. I looked. Different approaches work for different people, and it really irritates me when people try and claim there’ll be nothing but sunshine and smooth sailing if you just follow their method/tips/etc. If you believe them then I have a bridge to sell you – and if it’s actually found to be infallible, I’ll buy that bridge back at double what you bought it for and then eat it.

So having said all that, take the advice I’m about to give at face value. Maybe it works for you, maybe it doesn’t. I make no claim to being an authority on any of this. I’m just a guy, fighting a never-ending battle against crippling anxiety, who found a way (for myself) to beat it back enough to put myself out there and stream.

Understand the Potential Risks

Putting yourself out there (and, by extension, leaving your comfort zone) has inherent risks to it. Especially when it comes to the internet. Duh. The moment you start your stream, you make yourself vulnerable. You open yourself up to interactions with every type of person and conversation. You voluntarily put yourself in the potential crosshairs of people who are not afraid to show their true colors behind the veil of the internet. At this point, you have to be honest with yourself. You have to decide for yourself whether or not you’re willing to subject yourself to those possibilities. I won’t sit here and say “don’t let the trolls get to you” or “don’t care what other people think” or any similar platitudes because they’re the complete opposite of helpful. Some people, like me, will always get bruised no matter how many times we tell ourselves we can shrug off something said to us and come out unscathed. However, as the streamer (or if you have a dedicated mod), you always have the safety net of banning those people from your channel. Don’t be afraid to use that ban hammer judiciously. It doesn’t make you a wimp or incapable of taking what others may consider a joke – you just don’t need that negativity while building a positive and comfortable foundation for your channel’s future. (And trust me, you’re not limiting your viewer base any by banning trolls… the no-life mouth breathers will simply pop another Pizza Roll and find a new channel to harass with the 10 minutes they have left before their mom calls down from the basement stairs that it’s time for lights out.)

Start Slow

When learning or training on most things in life, you typically start small. Slow. If you’re learning how to play a trumpet, chances are you’re not going to join a jazz band after learning the basic scale. Chances are you’re also not going to start competing in auto racing the day after completing Drivers Ed. Same applies here. If your anxiety and the countless doubts and worries and questions swirling in your brain are keeping you from streaming, start small. Don’t set a schedule. Don’t force yourself to go for 4 hours every stream. Stream when you can muster the will to, and do it for maybe 30 minutes. Or 15, or even 10 if that’s all you can do. Streaming without a schedule and for short periods at a time likely won’t grow your channel, but that’s not what’s important right now. Right now, the focus is on getting your feet wet and in the habit of taking that leap. Stretching yourself and your ability to start the stream and leave it running. Once you get more familiar with being live, you can gradually increase how long you stream for.

Using a Webcam is Optional

For me, one of the biggest anxieties I had when starting to stream was putting myself out there for everyone to see. I was literally blasting my face, my physical quirks and mannerisms, and a portion of my body out for the world to see. And judge. And critique. And ridicule. I’m very conscious of how other people see me, which is why I try and maintain my appearance when I’m in the public eye. But even then, you can’t stop people from thinking what they think. And I was terrified of people thinking negative things about me. Still am, really. I wound up taking a deep breath and putting myself on cam anyways, but that won’t work for everyone.  So if you feel the same and aren’t sure if you’re up to putting yourself on camera, then don’t. Webcams are entirely optional. Yes, many viewers prefer streams with webcams, but there are plenty who don’t care. So maybe try streaming without a camera to ease that anxiety some and focus on providing engaging commentary instead. Just keep in mind that without a webcam, the only connection viewers have to you is your voice. If that’s missing too, they might as well be watching recorded gameplay footage on YouTube.

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