Judging Your Performance

How do you judge how well or badly you are performing?

This is a question that has troubled so many performers, and the answer will give you no comfort. You can't. You have to trust. Judgement is actually the bane of a performer's life and causes you to perform worse not better. The reason? Listen to this week's episode to find out more, and what to do instead.

Podcast 21 Title

The Courageous Performer Podcast

Judging Your Performance

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 nailyourperformance.com to find out how to work with me.

Read the episode transcript here:


Hello, I'm Hattie Voelcker, from Find Your True Voice, and in this episode, I'm going to be looking at judgement, and the relationship there is between judgement and how well or badly you perform, or you are able to perform. Because for me, there is a strong impact that judgement has on your ability to perform at your best.



There are three main areas I'm going to be looking at. Number one is self judgement, how you judge yourself, and whether you judge yourself, and this idea that as we judge ourselves, we impact how well or badly we will, we will perform, we are performing.



The second area is how you judge your audience, and I think this is a really interesting area. And certainly when I talk about it with people, they're like, "Ah, yeah, I hadn't thought about it that way."



And the final area is to look at your fear of judgement by your audience. And how that impacted by how, how much you want them to approve of you, and how much you fear them disapproving of you. So you both want their judgement and fear their judgement at the same time because you want their judgement, sometimes even if it's negative, because then at least you would know, wouldn't you? You'd be have this level of certainty. So judgement for me has this really strong relationship with a desire to have certainty.



So let's take a look at self judgement first. And this came up because (isn't it funny how we teach what we need to learn?) I was in a singing lesson and my singing teacher said "Stop judging your singing as you sing. Because you can't assess it, you're you're not best placed to assess it. And whilst you're assessing it, you're not properly singing. So stop judging," and I was like, "Oh, my goodness, this is exactly what I work with my with my clients, stop judging yourself!"



Because actually, while you're judging yourself, you can't lean into the doing. And the other aspect of it, so not only you're not capable of assessing yourself, and judging yourself, will it throw you off your flow, but also, you your judgement, your assessment will be on different criteria to that of your audience, your audience don't want the same as you. In fact, a client of mine said this, this week, he realised that the stuff that he'd been focused in on the audience good, didn't give a stuff about (he may have used a stronger word than that!) But they really didn't care about the same things that he thought were important, and when he let go of thinking those things were important, he performed better.



So not only are we the worst people to assess ourselves, because we're seeing ourselves from a completely different perspective to everybody else. We're also, in that process of assessing makes us worse, and finally, we're assessing ourselves genuinely by the wrong criteria. On top of that, that very fact that you are looking to assess yourself to gain some level of certainty of how well or badly you're doing brings tension, it brings in criticism, it brings, it allows that critical voice to come in and "help you do your job." Ah, you know, it comes in going "I know how to do this, that what I'll tell you everything that you're doing wrong, and then you'll be able to have a proper assessment of where you're at."



But it's rubbish, because you're not capable of assessing yourself, certainly, particularly not when you're actually performing. And when you assess yourself, you throw yourself off, and you're assessing yourself, generally, by criteria that don't matter to your audience. And so you not only bring all of that criticism and give strength to that critical voice, it doesn't help you anyway. So for me, that's why self judgement is really the bane of a performer's life. Because also we tend to use judgement - I'll talk about this a bit in a bit more detail later in this podcast - judgement has this sort of binary feel to it, it's good or it's bad. It's black, or it's white, it's on or it's off. And that means that we can't go, it doesn't have the nuance that we would have with other words.



So that's self judgement now I want to look at how you judge your audience because this is where the irony comes in, we fear the judgement of our audience in case they damn us, and yet, in the very process of fearing their judgement, we are judging them to be less kind than we might, we're thinking, they're not going to be very nice to us. And if they're not going to be very nice to us, then our opinion of them is that they're not very nice people, because they're not going to be very nice to us, they're not going to do nice things, even if we deserve it in our heads. So that's the first part of judging your audience, you tend to judge them negatively and expect bad things from them, which is quite harsh. Whereas if you judge them kindly, and expect nice things from them, yes, you might be disappointed, but you're going to be more relaxed in your performance, and actually more likely to get good judgement because you're more relaxed, and you're more open to connect, because you're going to be more likely to connect with nice people. So if you assess them as nice, then you're more likely to open, connect, do a good performance and get good feedback. If you assess them as potentially critical and not very nice to you, then you're more likely to tighten up and bring tension and more likely to hide and disconnect from them. So you'll, it's a self fulfilling prophecy, in a sense.



Excuse me, I've had a bit of bronchitis, I'm still struggling with my breathing.



The other thing we tend to do with the audience is, as I said about self judgement, is impose our criteria on them, we think that they are going to judge us the way we judge ourselves. And so we think they're looking for perfection, we think they're looking for every word to be right for us not to stumble, or pause, or um or ah or get a wrong note, etc, etc. And that isn't what the audience wants. We impose our view of judgement, we impose our judgement of ourselves on them, and because we're so darn nasty to ourselves, that's another reason we consider them nasty.



So be kind to your audience, remember that they're actually nice people. And even if they're not, and this is the real bonus, if you think they're nice, even if they're not, you're more likely to do a better performance, and they're more likely to be impressed with you. If you fear them, then you're less likely to do a good performance, it's grist to their mill, you know, you there, you've given them stuff to be critical about. So that's about judging your audience.



And finally, I want to look at fear of judgement. Because the biggest thing that comes into, I would say pretty much all performance issues, is this fear of not being good enough fear that you will be judged and found wanting. And so we fear that judgement, and that fear causes us to tense up causes us to overthink, causes that critical voice to go, "It's alright, I'll help you out. I'll point out all your faults, and then we can eliminate them." As opposed to "I'll point out all your faults, and then you'll feel terrible, and you won't do as good a performance," which is what actually happens.



The irony is, although we fear that judgement, we also want it because, again, you want certainty, you want to know whether you are good enough. And even if the judgement is "I'm not good enough," you're after it, because then maybe you can just give up and stop trying and maybe you were never meant to do this anyway. And that will be an easy out.



The trouble is, hasn't worked has it? You haven't got certainty and there are a number of reasons why you haven't got certainty. One is that we like judgement, but we only ever really focus on the negative judgments, we get, the positive ones kind of there, but they don't take up as much headspace. We don't hold on to them for as long. The negative ones we hold on to and yet somehow you still want to do it. You've had these negative judgments you've held on to them, you remember them they hurt, and you still want to do it. So you still haven't got this certainty.



And that's, that's the real struggle here. This desire for certainty. It's a hopeless quest. Because certainty isn't possible for a number of reasons. One of which is you're not always the same performer, you sing better sometimes and worse at other times. You speak better sometimes and worse at other times. Sometimes you do something really well. Sometimes you do it really badly. You can improve and make improvements and you are almost, no you will never achieve your absolute ideal because there's no such thing, there are always bits where you go, I wish "I'd done that differently" or "Next time, I'd love to try that differently," (which is the way I prefer to phrase it).



So certainty isn't available, and we constantly seek opinions, seek opinions, seek opinions, but they don't give us that certainty, because we know they are just opinions. And there's a really interesting difference between judgement and opinion for me in terms of how they're used. Judgment's a funny word, because in many ways, the way we use it, it has this finality, as I was saying before, this sort of binary nature, it's good or it's bad. The final judgement is x.



Although we can also use it, and you know, "I use my own judgement," which is kind of more like an opinion and recognising that it's your judgement, not everybody else's. In the main, when we talk about judgement, we're meaning something final something, like, decisive. The trouble is, what we only ever get is someone's opinion. And it's, if we start phrasing it as opinion, that doesn't give us the certainty we want. So that's, I think, why we don't phrase it as opinion, we phrase it as judgement, which is both scary and unachievable.



What we are getting is opinion. We're getting our own opinion, and that may be based on all our fears and worries and concerns, and I do a lot of work with people, stepping back and how do we make a non, have a non judgmental observation of what we're doing, as opposed to the more black and white judgement. And opinions, by their very nature are, we acknowledged as, subjective and flexible. And it's easier, therefore, to see at face value, that they are subjective and flexible. And they might change over time.



And so what happens when we start to acknowledge that all we can get is opinion, we're never going to get the certainty. We can't use self judgement to get certainty for ourselves, we know it doesn't work. The judgement we have of our audience is based on our perception so often. And so it's like we're looking for this level of certainty of the feedback we get. And it's just not there because we often imposing what we think on them, and then the judgement we're seeking to get from other people, one we hang on to the negative more than the positive, but again, it's just their opinion. You know, JK Rowling would never have published Harry Potter if she'd taken the first publishers opinion. And there are so many examples like that.



So I go back to what my singing teacher said. And it's this idea of just do the doing, and don't worry about the judging. Afterwards, you can form an opinion, there's no point forming an opinion in the middle of it, because you've only got part of the information and it pulls you out of flow. You can form an opinion of what you liked, what you didn't like, what you want to do more of, what you want to do less of. And that's not binary. It's not like that was good, that was bad. It's like, "Ooh, I liked that bit, and I didn't like this bit." And we're talking then about this non judgmental observation, what I liked what my opinion was. And I think that is really, really empowering, and that's what I would ask you to have a think about this time. Have a think about, instead of looking for, for some final answers about whether you're good enough, or whether you will ever be good enough. Just realise that we, that we live with uncertainty, we'll never know, and we can just gather opinions and work out what we want to work on and what we don't want to work on.



And when we let go of judgement, it requires us to trust more. And the one thing I can tell you is that if you trust yourself more, you will perform better. Trust, as I've said before, comes with a necessary understanding that you might let yourself down or other people might let you down or you might let others down. There has to be that potential. But trust also means letting go of that level of control and judgement and trying to seek certainty and control.



I'm Hattie Voelcker