Trust and Performing

Do you trust yourself as a performer? I bet the answer is no, and certainly not in front of your most daunting or challenging audiences. However trust is the key to performing at your best with real freedom and connection. But how do you trust yourself when you also know you've messed up in the past (probably including one particularly impactful time)?

In this episode I talk about what you can do to change things so you can trust yourself.

Podcast 20 Title

The Courageous Performer Podcast

Trust and Performing

If you would like to transform your approach to performing so that you can feel confident (even without being able to guarantee the outcome!) then go to to find out how to work with me.

Read the episode transcript here:


Hi, I'm Hattie Voelcker from Find Your True Voice, and in today's episode, I want to talk to you about trust. And the question I want to ask is, do you trust yourself as a performer? Do you trust yourself when you perform?



I imagine the answer, and that's the reason you're listening to this, is "No". And, and I want to dig deep into the issue of trust here, because trust and reliability have a strange relationship. Most often, we think about this idea that you trust someone because, or something, because it's reliable. So you've built trust, because you've learned that you can rely on it. However, it's not always that clear cut, because they have this sort of relationship where they inter relate to each other, and one, the trust in impacts the reliability, the reliability impacts the trust.



But this idea that you trust something, because it's reliable means that we don't trust ourselves when we perform, so often, because, you know, you've made mistakes in the past. So you know, it's possible for you to make mistakes in the future. So why would you trust yourself? And so instead, we start to seek control.



But if you look at it in a slightly different way, because if you don't trust somebody, and they are aware of it, it can cause them to lose faith in themselves, it can cause them to feel more nervous, they either want to please you more, or they actually go, "I don't want to please you because if you don't trust me...", and you think about trusting a child, when we don't trust trust children, then in a sense, why should they behave, and you often find the children who have the least trust given to them might be the ones that behave the worst, or are the most constrained and nervous as well. And the ones who are trusted, within their scope of capability are all actually at the edge, and then this is the thing about growing up, it's like pushing that, "Yeah, I trust you to do this, I trust you to do that," are the ones who grow and grow into that trust, because they trust themselves, if you trust them, they learn to trust themselves.



In the same way, when you don't trust yourself, it leads to all the bad habits that we have of nerves, because if we don't trust ourselves, we become nervous. We seek to control which creates tension. And it therefore means that you become less reliable, just as a child might become less reliable if you don't trust them, they go, "Why should I do this?" or they become nervous, and they won't do it or can't do it. When we don't trust ourselves, we become less reliable, because nerves and tension and attempts to control come in which get in the way of us performing at our best.



And the other thing about trust is that trust requires there to be the possibility of being let down. If there is no possibility that you will be let down, then that doesn't take any trust. That's a guarantee. That's a certainty. Trust requires the possibility that it's not going to work out. And that's something that clicked in my head a few years ago and I was like, "Yeah, that's it!" I don't trust my son, if I make it a certainty, that he can't take any biscuits from the cupboard, let's choose a frivolous thing. If I lock the cupboard, that's not trust, that's making it to certainty. I trust it when there's still a chance for him to do it, and I've left it open, and I trust you not to take them this time because we're taking those biscuits somewhere else, or I want those for something else.



And he doesn't always pay off on that trust. But if I stopped trusting him, he will get more nervous. He won't trust himself, he might resent me. And if I keep trusting him, even though occasionally he will not do the thing that I've trusted him to do or do the thing that I trusted him not to do, then we start to build a relationship and we start to grow and he starts to learn about trust and hopefully learn to trust himself.



In the same way that when you start to trust yourself, then you start to relax, and you start to lean into enjoying your performing more, and you are far more likely to do a good job. But how do you trust yourself when you know you've messed up in the past, when you know, you could let yourself down, when you know you have let yourself down in the past?



And the question is really, what are you trusting yourself to do or not do? If you're trying to trust yourself, that you will not make a fool of yourself, that you won't make any mistakes, that nothing will go wrong, that you'll remember all your words, that you'll nail it 100%, then you really can guarantee failure, because that never happens, things don't go perfectly. And they never go the same. Definitely not in a performance if you're doing a repetitive performance. But that doesn't mean it's always a bad thing.



So what do you trust, if you can't trust that you're going to get it all right, if you can't trust that you can protect yourself from any form of mistake or something going not according to plan, something going wrong. What you can do is you can trust that you will cope and be okay and be able to handle whatever doesn't go to plan, whatever does go wrong. And even lean into the possibility that, if we put that goes wrong in inverted commas, that whatever goes wrong could actually be going spectacularly right. The number of times that so called mistakes have been moments of genius, it's just infinite. And so actually wonderful things come out of the unexpected, when we're not trying to control everything and pin everything down. You know, even if we got rid of all the tension that that creates, that sense of control gets in the way of creativity, it gets in the way of expression, it gets in the way of connection.



So whilst you're trying to protect yourself from failure, from the embarrassment, from the shame, of things going wrong, you're actually increasing the chances that things will go wrong, sucking the joy out of the whole process, and making it so much harder work. And take a listen if you haven't already to the podcast on the Counterintuitive Instant Improvement because this will give you a little bit more insight into this whole idea of what we aim for. While we're aiming to get 100%, we're guaranteeing failure, but we're also putting so much pressure on ourselves and making it harder to get a higher percentage.



So how do you learn to trust that you will cope with whatever gets thrown at you, with whatever goes wrong. And for me, this is about redefining what success and failure are and your relationship with them. Because if you define success as nailing it 100% you will never achieve that. If you define success as connecting with your audience, as reaching them and giving them the message, then that's entirely possible. If you define success as enjoying it and giving enjoyment to your audience, then you can be successful. If you define it as getting every single note, right, you making it less likely that will that will happen, but you're not you're never necessarily going to get every note bang on, and even if you think you did, when you listen back to the recording, you'll probably pull it apart (if you're anything like a lot of my clients and the way I used to be, and I still am at times).



Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying don't put the work in. What I am saying is put the work in for a different reason. Don't put the work in to protect yourself from failure because you are guaranteeing failure by doing that, because if you're all about protecting, then there's no trust, there's loads of control and tension, etc, etc.



Do put the work in to maximise your impact. To maximise your enjoyment of the performance and your audience's enjoyment of the performance. To maximise your communication and your connection with the audience. And if you put the work in to achieve that, then you are increasing your chances of doing a better job. Again, not 100%, but doing a better job. If you focus on trying to get 100% eliminating all the mistakes, eliminating all the problems, then you simply won't get there and your issue with trust will get worse. Whereas if you know you're going to make progress, you know, you're going to set yourself a target that is achievable, and the success measure that you can go "Yeah, no, I really did, certainly sections of that I really enjoyed. What went right about that, how can I transmit that to other areas, etc, etc?" You can see how that's expansive, and the more you achieve those things, the more you will trust yourself. And trust yourself, that it you're not going to die. And I always think it's really interesting that people talk about dying on stage because I think it does feel that existential sometimes when you stand up in front of an audience. But you're not.



And if you focus on that, being able to be responsive and trusting, that you will be able to respond to whatever happens, then that is where you start to relax, and perform at your best.



So if there are three things I want you to take away from this. One is the key is trust, trusting yourself. Two is that trust isn't a guarantee. And three, is that what we're trusting what you're trusting, is that you will survive what ever happens. It will be okay in the end. That's one of my favourite quotes. It'll be alright in the end, and if it's not alright, it's not the end yet.



I think so often we're taught that if we catastrophise, if we look at how embarrassing it will be if we get it wrong, then that will get our bottoms into gear and make us do the work. But that creates fear and tension. And for me, the answer is trust, and working in order to feed the desire, to hit success criteria, like connection, like communication, like expression and enjoyment, etc, etc, not to feed the fear.



I'm Hattie Voelcker from Find Your True Voice, thank you so much for listening.