Do you trust yourself as a performer?

Do you trust yourself as a performer? Do you trust that you will be good enough? Does it matter if you don’t?

Lack of trust in ourselves as performers can be behind a lot of the things that trip us up and get in the way of us performing the way we know we can. It’s that age old truth that the more we don’t trust we will remember the words, the more likely it is we will forget them.

For me, lack of trust is at the root of a lot of a lot of the negative behaviours we utilise to try and be better, but which actually make us worse.

We may have this idea that we are being ‘realistic’ by not trusting ourselves and this makes us more vigilant and less likely to mess up. What I find is that going into a performance not trusting ourselves tends to set off this chain of events:

  1. We will be more nervous, because we don’t trust ourselves to do a good job.
  2. Those nerves will create tension in our minds and bodies.
  3. Tension in our bodies affects our vocal technique, making it harder for us to sing well and with freedom.
  4. Tension in our minds leads to a cluttered mind as we seek to take control to make sure we sing well, and we start to talk to ourselves parent to naughty child.
  5. As we try to take control, we are more likely to over analyse what we are doing.
  6. As we analyse, if our habit is to use self-criticism, we will be more likely to be self-critical, meaning we focus on our mistakes and worry about messing up even more.
  7. The more we focus on our mistakes and worry, the more tension we create and the more likely it is we will mess up.
  8. If we focus on our mistakes and worry about messing up we are not present with our audience. We are then caught up with how well or badly we are doing and are not thinking about the message or music, or how to communicate it to our audience.
  9. When we don’t think about the message or music we can’t connect with or engage our audience.

The truth is, letting go and trusting that you will do the best you can does not and cannot remove the risk of messing up. However, not trusting yourself, worrying and trying to control things, definitely increases the chances if it happening.

In the same way, trusting yourself doesn’t get rid of nerves, but not trusting yourself definitely increases them.

The question then becomes, if the nerves and the risk of messing up remain, how do you get to the point where you do trust yourself? Is it actually a realistic place you can get to?

For me the answer to the second question is an emphatic ‘Yes!’ So what about the first question? Frankly, this took me a long time to get my head around. How could I trust myself to be ok, when experience told me otherwise?

It’s such a Catch 22 situation. How much was my worry about messing up the cause of me messing up? How could I find out and break the cycle?

I remember the turning point (and this is not something I’ve yet talked about except with one to one clients as it’s probably the area of my greatest vulnerability) was when I was given a role in an opera at a summer school in which I had to be ‘sexy’ and be a ‘slut’ lusting after the lead. Well as far as I was concerned, I’d never been sexy in my life, this was truly outside my comfort zone.

I figured I had two options:

  1. ‘Pretend’ to be sexy making damn sure it looked like I was pretending and not that anyone might actually think I thought I could do it (which I definitely didn’t) or
  2. Say sod it, and behave as if I really felt sexy and really was fawning all over the lead.

If I went for the first I would look awkward, but I didn’t run the risk of getting it totally wrong, people would know what I was trying to be even if I looked self-conscious, they would know I was pretending and didn’t actually think I was any good at this.

It would definitely not be great, but it would feel safe. I would be in control.

If on the other had I behaved as if I was genuinely lusting after the lead, not in a comedic way, this was a huge risk. I could look like I was giving my all, taking it seriously, and still get it wrong, like one of the terrible auditionees on Britain’s Got Talent. I could – and this was my worst fear – make a fool of myself.

On the other hand, there was a possibility – however small – people might actually be convinced by my performance. I might – shock horror – be good.

I could guarantee myself to be mediocre or worse, or I could take a risk and open up the possibility of being great (or terrible). I thought sod it, and went for it. I let go of thinking and I simply imagined feeling actually lusting after the lead. I was concentrating so hard on this that all my fears and worries didn’t have any space to get in and ruin things.

To this day I don’t know how well others thought I did, but I don’t care. I’m damn sure I was better than I would have been if I hadn’t let go, in any event I had fun.

The thing about trust is that it isn’t trust if the outcome is guaranteed.

Inherent to trust is letting go. When you trust someone to do something, you don’t micromanage them and there exists the risk that they won’t do it, or not the way you want, they have choice.

In the same way trusting yourself is about letting go of control and believing, when you do, it all won’t go to pot, or if it does it won’t be the end of the world. It’s about believing you are good enough, even if you do make a mistake, and that micromanaging your performance won’t help you one iota. Most importantly it is about opening the door to fun and being in the moment. Filling your head with thoughts about the performance, about acting, singing, and communicating, so there is no space to worry gives you the freedom to sing and to engage with your audience.

Trusting leads to fun, fun leads to freedom, freedom leads to a good performance which both you and your audience are much more likely to enjoy.
If you do one thing today, sing for the fun of it.

Much love