When I started out doing comedy, each gig would loom over me like an eagle's shadow over a mouse.
I'd spend the whole day and night prior worrying about it, trying to make sure I had a perfect run-up to the gig.
I thought if I didn't have a good night's sleep before I'd die on my arse.
If I didn't have the perfect balance of caffeine, booze and carbs I'd have a breakdown onstage.
If my best gig T-shirt wasn't clean, I'd get slow-clapped off stage (turns out it was nothing to do with the T-shirt).
As I started to gig more, working in an office job by day, then heading off to gigs all around the country by night, getting the perfect run up to a gig became impossible.
I'd rush into a gig in Totnes, moments before being due onstage, the mournful fragments of a Greggs pasty crumbled over whatever T-shirt had been clean(ish) that morning.
I'd get the name of the town wrong. I'd forget some jokes and improvise. I'd hallucinate onstage through sheer tiredness.
Back in the car. Back to London. Five hours' sleep. Commute to work. Be shit at that. Back in the car. Off to Norfolk. Gig. Repeat.
It was an intense period, and if there's one thing I took away from it, it was this:
You're better when you give less of a shit.
It turns out audiences connect to you a lot more if you lay it all on the table, weaknesses and all.
You'll never be perfect, but you can always be authentic and in the moment - open, vulnerable and flawed.
Learning this was a liberation of sorts.
In life you very rarely get the perfect run up to a big event.
You get ill the day before going on holiday.
You can't sleep the night before a big presentation.
You get too busy to properly rehearse a big pitch,
When you've survived a few gigs under less-than-perfect conditions, you quickly understand that you can deliver just as well, if not better, when you're tired, hungry and unfocussed.
Not slept? You'll get through it (you might fall asleep at the wheel on the way home, but you'll get through it).
Had a huge row just before you stepped into the spotlight? Use it as energy.
Starving? Steal some chips from an audience member.
When you embrace your rough edges, it takes the pressure of you.
Many times you're actively better when you're worse - you're more free-flowing, more open to improvise, less bothered about what happens if things don't go exactly to plan.
Whatever you're dreading might actually end up being fun - and if not fun exactly it's now just another thing you have to do before you can sit down for a bit.
In the same way "if you want something done, give it to a busy person" works, by being on the back foot you've actually tamed the beast.
Some sales people go out on the booze the night before a big pitch, so they're all mildly hungover the next day.
It sounds counterintuitive, because it is, but it does make some sort of nightmarish sense.
You're tired and hungover.
Your defences are down.
You don't waste time on fluff and trivialities.
You connect openly, because you haven't got the strength to do otherwise.
You stop being scared of the event, because you've given the finger to it - you've put it back in its box.
Of course, I'm not suggesting you turn up to your next job interview reeking of Lidl gin and an open tub of poppers, but if you're ill, hungover, tired or just plain sad don't worry - you'll be just fine.
You might even be a bit better.
Find more on nerves, confidence, presenting and comedy at www.dropthemic.co.uk