How do the world’s top stars muster the poise and determination to stand on stage, despite the nerves and anxiety of having a bad performance? For both Beyoncé and Adele, the secret has been the creation of an alter ego.

Beyoncé’s was the assertive and empowered ‘Sasha Fierce’, who allowed her to perform with extra self-confidence and sensuality. “Usually when I hear the chords, when I put on my stilettos, like the moment right before when you’re nervous… then Sasha Fierce appears, and my posture and the way I speak and everything is different,” she told Oprah Winfrey in 2008. It was a strategy that she continued to use until 2010, when she felt she had matured enough to avoid the psychological crutch.

Inspired by an emotional meeting with Beyoncé herself, Adele followed suit, telling Rolling Stone magazine in 2011 about her creation of ‘Sasha Carter’. The persona was a combination of Beyoncé’s Sasha Fierce persona and the (real) country music star June Carter. Adele said the strategy helped her give her best to every performance during her breakout year.

Although the embodiment of a fictional persona may seem like a gimmick for pop stars, new research suggests there may be some real psychological benefits to the strategy. Adopting an alter ego is an extreme form of ‘self-distancing’, which involves taking a step back from our immediate feelings to allow us to view a situation more dispassionately.

Ethan Kross, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, has led much of this research over the past decade, showing that even small shifts in perspective can help people to gain control of their emotions.

In one study, participants were asked to think about a challenging event in the future, such as an important exam, in one of two different ways. The group in the “immersed” condition were told to picture it from the inside, as if they were in the middle of the situation, whereas those in the “distanced” condition were asked to picture it from afar – as if they were a fly on the wall. The differences were striking, with those taking the distanced viewpoint feeling much less anxious about the event, compared to the immersed group. The self-distancing also encouraged greater feelings of self-efficacy – the sense that they could pro-actively cope with the situation and achieve their goal.

Read the full article at BBC