Not everyone who puts themselves out there in public is an extrovert. In fact some of us are full blown introverts. However, we all have one thing in common, when we stand out from the crowd we want it to be for the right reasons. We want to shine with our brilliance, not draw attention because of our inadequacies! Yet we have all felt the sting of the obvious error. Anyone who has put themselves out there in public has risked failure on some level, and will have slipped up, in public. So each time we do it we are all to well aware of the risks.
Just after I posted my blog last week, a friend posted a brilliant article on Stage Fright that also talked about how, when we make a mistake, we can recoil into ourselves when we should be focusing on the performance and continuing to connect. Our instinct is to protect ourselves from critical glare, when what is best for success is to forget the mistake and move on. The article talked about the protective armour of stage fright, and the need to take it off and get naked and vulnerable so that we can continue to communicate with the audience.
I have felt the emotion of fear and shame about mistakes both in court and on stage. In court the desire to protect our self esteem after an obvious error or embarrassing mistake can cause us to pull away from our arguments, lose focus and stumble, or rush through and forget to prioritise our clients. It can take huge effort to stand up to a sneering judge, or ignore jeering opposing counsel, and to continue to put our case in the way that we think best. In the same way, on stage, to have the confidence to make a mistake and let it go. To remain focused on being a conduit for the music and the story, and remain connected to the audience.
Another friend commented about my blog that the word shame felt heavy as she read it, and I realised how I had repeatedly used the word. She talked of how she felt shame was like a gremlin sitting on her shoulder that she could choose to ignore if she wanted. This made me think. During the AIMS International Music School week this summer I had the chance to work with a director, Robert Marsden, who talked of how actors can often view adopting a character like putting on a cloak or coat, covering up their own personalities with someone else’s. His view was that when we act we should expand and reduce elements of our own character to become the part. As a life coach this makes complete sense to me, there is not a client I have had in whom I have not recognised a part of myself in, to a greater or lesser extent. I could probably say that about almost all, if not all, my clients as a barrister. As the late Jo Cox famously stated ‘we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.’ So by expanding and reducing our characteristics, we can embody someone else’s character and personality. It takes courage to do this because we have to own who we are, and be prepared to reveal ourselves, in order to achieve this.
But what has this got to do with shame and embarrassment? Whilst we feel all is going well, we can view ourselves as being the yellow umbrella in the picture for all the right reasons. When something goes wrong, we see ourselves as the yellow umbrella for all the wrong reasons. Suddenly we want to hide the yellow umbrella, and melt away. Like wearing a garish Christmas jumper to a business meeting or a top that says ‘Idiot Here’. We feel like all eyes are on our mistake, and that’s all people can see and what they are judging us by. So we wrap a coat around ourselves to hide the embarrassing garment, we try to finish as quickly as possible so that we can run away and no-one can see the shame we are wearing, or we lash out and deflect and point out the embarrassing things others are ‘wearing’ . What we can choose to do is take off the offending piece of clothing and discard it, we can talk about it or even laugh at it, but recognise that it is not who we are and it is preventing people from seeing and connecting with us.
When we feel like being the yellow umbrella is wrong, chances are it is shame getting in the way. Once we recognise that, we can choose to let go of the shame and become the yellow umbrella again in all it’s glory.
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