142: Performance Anxiety: The Story of Rhonda, Part 1

“I sound stupid! . . . Ouch!”

Have you ever struggled with performance anxiety, thinking you might fail or not be good enough? I think it is fair to say that every therapist in my Tuesday training group at Stanford has struggled with fairly intense feelings of anxiety and self-doubt, and perhaps you have, too, thinking you should be smarter or better than you are, and fearing that others would judge you if they saw your “true self.” In fact, I would suspect that most of our podcast fans have struggled with these feelings at some time during your life, and maybe even recently or now.

Well, today, we’ve got a wonderful program in store for you. Our own Dr. Rhonda Barovsky asked me for personal help with her own anxieties about being the new podcast host. I asked if she wanted to do it live, on a podcast, and she generously agreed!

In this heart-warming and very human session, Rhonda shares the negative thoughts and feelings she had when she listened to herself on several podcasts and begin noticing this or that error she made. She felt intensely down, anxious, ashamed, inadequate, rejected, embarrassed, discouraged, frustrated, and angry, to name just a few of her negative feelings, and her mind was flooded with negative thoughts like these:

  1. I sound stupid and inarticulate, and some of my comments were inaccurate, like when I said psychiatric diagnoses are meaningless labels.
  2. I’ve had feelings of insecurity ever since I was a child, and should be over this by now!
  3. David is going to regret having me as the podcast host!
  4. Everyone will know I’m a fraud, and no one will like or respect me.
  5. People will judge and reject me, and I’ll end up ostracized and alone.

She believed these thoughts at 100%. You might recall that the Necessary and Sufficient Conditions for emotional distress are:

  1. You have one or more negative thoughts.
  2. You believe the negative thoughts.

In today’s podcast, you will hear the first half of the session, which included T = Testing as well as E = Empathy. During the Empathy phase, David also included two Uncovering Techniques, the individual Downward Arrow Technique and the Interpersonal Downward Arrow Technique, so that he and Rhonda could identify the Self-Defeating Beliefs under the surface, like Perfectionism, Perceived Perfectionism, the Approval Addiction, Superwoman, and more.

This is because there are two goals in TEAM-CBT. The first goal is to crush the negative thoughts in the here and now, so that you’ll feel relief. The second goal is to modify the Self-Defeating Beliefs so you’ll be less prone to similar thoughts and feelings in the future.

In next week’s podcast, you will hear the second half of the session, which included A = (Paradoxical) Agenda Setting and M = Methods. You’ll also hear the final T = Testing to find out how effective the session was, and how Rhonda rated David on Empathy and Helpfulness.

I think you’ll find that both sessions are incredibly inspiring and wonderful sources of learning as well. I want to give a shout out to Rhonda for being so courageous and vulnerable and real, and for making this live therapy session possible! After you’ve heard Part 2 next week, let us know what you think!

You’ve all responded very positively to the live therapy we’ve done on the Feeling Good Podcasts, and you’ve asked for more. Rhonda and I are committed to making that happen for you, and we are both so grateful for your support, which means a lot to both of us. Thank you!

David and Rhonda



You can reach Dr. Burns at david@feelinggood.com. Dr. Rhonda Barovsky practices in Walnut Creek, California, and can be reached at rbarovsky@aol.com.

If you like our jingle music and would like to support the composer Brett Van Donsel, you may download it here.

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July 15 – 18, 2019
Calgary, Canada four-day intensive
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July 29 – August 1, 2019
South San Francisco four-day intensive
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November 4 – 7, 2019
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6 thoughts on “142: Performance Anxiety: The Story of Rhonda, Part 1

  1. During this episode, you suggested to pause the playback and read the list of 23 self-defeating beliefs that would be posted in the show notes. It looks like you may have forgotten to post those. It would be awesome if you could share that.
    Thanks a lot

  2. Hi, Dr. Burns! Thanks for another great podcast. The best ones are always when doing live therapy. This podcast already has me just liking Rhonda so much more. I think she’s doing a great job and she was a great choice to do the podcast with you.

    I am curious, do you ever feel the need to get a fellow therapist to help you with your problems? Do problems ever sit with you for a while before you address them? I’d love for you to talk about that at some point.

    Another unrelated question, what would be the outcome resistance for a phobia? My girlfriend is terrified of throwing up, the idea of throwing up in public, and someone else throwing up and causing her to throw up. She’s been listening to your podcasts but she says that she cannot think of anything non-trivial that is good about having the phobia. She’s tried for a bit to think of some hidden emotion too but is coming up short. She seems pretty confident she’d like to press the magic button.

    She also doesn’t know how to do exposure and doesn’t feel like it would work because she has had plenty of episodes of extreme anxiety going in public or watching others throw up and it doesn’t seem to get better despite trying to push through it. I suggested maybe she could try cognitive exposure where she vividly imagines throwing up or watching videos of people throwing up. Do you think that’s a good idea? What other techniques might be good to add to her recovery circle?


    • I would ask her what it is about vomiting that she is afraid of. Dying? Looking like a fool in public? Etc? That might help with the exposure aspect.

      I had the fear of vomiting but got over it after a spell with Meniere’s Disease following a cold or flu. It cause repeated vomiting every time you move your head! So I had some involuntary exposure of 100s of vomiting episodes one afternoon. That kind of cured me!

      100% of anxious people erroneously claim that exposure won’t work since they’ve been accidentally exposed to the thing they fear and they’re still afraid. But that’s not exposure! If she is interested and motivated, she could read When Panic Attacks and learn more about the Daily Mood Log and working systematically.

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