Building Self-Worth as a Performer

How you feel about yourself as a performer, and how much worth you give yourself can really impact the way you perform. You might want to be confident but be afraid of being too confident so you appear arrogant. Where is the balance?

This episode is all about finding that authentic self-worth that enables you go go out and perform with confidence.

Podcast 36 - Building Self Worth

The Courageous Performer Podcast

Building Self Worth as a Performer

If you would like to learn how to let go and perform brilliantly, 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:

[00:00:00] Hi, I'm Hattie Voelcker from Find Your True Voice and today I'm going to be talking about how you get a good level of self worth, how you build your self esteem because I'm always talking about this idea that so many of problems in performing are caused by this worry that you're not good enough. So how do you feel good enough?

Often the solution people seek is one of two things. They either seek to perfect everything, to get everything right, because then they'll they think they'll feel safe, and, or, they seek external validation. Some sort of level where they go, 'Well, I can, I must definitely be good enough because they approved of me or I achieved this level, this certification, this, level in my career, etc, etc.

That idea that either getting it all right or getting approval from other people will solve the problems with self confidence. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not going to say that that's [00:01:00] negative for self confidence, but if there is an underlying problem with how you view yourself and you have low self esteem, then a lot of that external validation will be negated by your own mind and I bet you're the sort of person just like me that when you get a compliment, or this is how I used to be, when you get a compliment you devalue it somehow you say well they're just being nice or they would say that or that's because I was in this class, or you give some reason why it's not reliable And you devalue it, which means you can maintain this idea that you're not good enough.

And this is what I realised, throughout my career. It didn't matter what targets I hit. You know, getting a good degree from university, um, passing my bar exams, getting a tenancy, etc. Getting a pupillage, getting a tenancy. Getting awards for various things. None of [00:02:00] it actually... impacted my intrinsic sense of self worth.

Now I know all of that has changed dramatically with all the work I've done um, because I'll tell you a story. I went on a singing course in September, a lovely singing course with my wonderful singing teacher Alison Wells and I walked up to the piano and I put down this piece and I said I'm really not singing this very well and she looked at me and said, 'What would you say if one of your clients said this?'

I said, 'I'd be absolutely fine. I'm fabulous, but I'm really not singing this very well.' And for me, that's the difference. My sense of self worth is no longer attached to my ability to sing well. And at times that's a good job. Now my sense of self worth comes from this intrinsic feeling that I am good enough.

I still work on it. It's not plain sailing. But I feel so much better about myself than I ever did before. So what changed? [00:03:00] I think for me when I realised that external validation wasn't giving me what I needed or wanted, I had to reconsider everything. I didn't have to, but I chose to reconsider everything and think about it.

Why was it that insults hit me hard in the chest and I would take those home and I would believe them but compliments I would devalue and they would be water off a duck's back? I kept wanting to feel good enough but refused to see any evidence that I was good enough and then I realised that I was confusing good enough at with good enough "existentially" good enough as a person and it's really funny because there's this thing called the life positions chart in life coaching and on one axis, it's got, I'm okay. I'm not okay. And on another axis, it's got, you're okay, you're not okay. [00:04:00] Now, as you might understand where the two bars of I'm not okay, and you're not okay intersect. So I'm not okay. You're not okay That's a really bad place to be that's really depressing because if no one's any good what hope is there?

The more normal place for be people to be and to swing between, normal places for them to swing between is I'm okay, you're not okay, or I'm not okay, you're okay, where we either see people as worse than us or better than us, but actually, the place we want to be as people is I'm okay, you're okay. Now, the funny thing is, when I talk about this with performers, they look at me and this is funny look in their eyes.

And I'm like, 'You don't just want to be you okay, do you? You want to be amazing.' And this is where the confusion between who you are as a person and what you do comes in because as a person we are no better or worse than anybody else intrinsically but we might be [00:05:00] better or worse in what we do and if I know that I'm an okay person, that I can do crappy things but I'm okay as a person then I come in to life in a different way. And if I know that everybody else is okay too, I approach life in a different way. So I can be okay and still want to sing better. That I don't sing well all the time means that I just work harder at singing. And this is the first realisation I had, that my performing didn't say anything about me as a person.

Because it used to feel like every time I got up to perform was a test, of whether I was good enough. That there was some magical formula and I had to prove this time. Every, every time, it was like I had to prove I was good enough. And I could prove, and this is where the high standards comes in and the trying to get everything right comes in, I could prove that I was good enough by not getting anything wrong. [00:06:00] By nailing my vocal technique, remembering all my words, connecting with the audience, showing some emotion. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. But that's aiming for 100%. And in reality, We can't get 100%. We're human. We're never going to get 100%. Nor does our audience want us to get 100%.

Because they don't connect to perfection. They connect to humanity. They want to see your humanity. And the irony is, once you take the pressure off getting 100%, you actually perform better. Not only do you perform better, but you work better. So, the work you put in, in the, in the background is easier to do because you're not going, I have to get this right to be good enough. I have to nail this. You're going, Oh, that's not quite right. I'd like that to be better, which is so much less pressure. And then what happens is you actually start to see the bits [00:07:00] you do well. And this is where the genius comes in. When you stop looking to eliminate your faults. You stop searching for your faults with that same sense of urgency and necessity.

You notice them and you might want to change them, but you don't feel like they're life or death, which means you relax, which means you perform better, but also you're willing to go there, without shame and go, yeah, I'm not doing this well. Walk up to the piano and say, I'm not singing this well. Without it saying anything about who you are, I'm not singing this well doesn't mean I'm a bad singer.

It means I'm singing this badly. 'I did a bad talk last night because there were things I didn't like in it' doesn't mean I'm a bad public speaker. It means, I don't like what I did, but actually, it's probably not that I did a bad talk, there were just bits of it I didn't like, and when you start to be less binary about good enough or not good enough, and you start to see the [00:08:00] nuances, you start to be less harsh on yourself, which means your humanity comes through, you're more able to work on the bits that you find harder, acknowledge the bits you do well, and as a consequence, your sense of self worth goes up.

So, the three things I think I'd ask you to remember is, one, you are good enough as a person. And remember that as a first and foremost. Stand up, know that you are worthy to be there. And no matter how well or badly you perform, it says nothing about whether you are intrinsically a good singer, intrinsically a good performer, intrinsically a good public speaker. It says everything about where you're at in your journey and the circumstances that are going on right now. There will be circumstances that explain what's going on, but also your level of current expertise will be in there as well.

So, you don't have to be perfect to be [00:09:00] good enough. Being you, where you're at, means then you get to share with the world and the world gets to receive what you have to offer. If you are ashamed of where you're at, then you won't give the world where you're at. Just because you'd like to be better doesn't mean that where you are right now isn't a lovely place to be.

So, be kind to yourself. Acknowledge your worth as a human being and start to ease up on the criticism and to stop looking at every single performance as a test that proves either you're good enough or you're not good enough. Start to see it as part of a learning curve, as to finding out where your next growing edge is, the next bit you want to learn is.

And you will find that your sense of self worth will go up and you stop relying on the audience and their applause to judge whether you're good enough and you start [00:10:00] relying on yourself. Thank you very much for listening. I'm Hattie Voelcker from Find Your True Voice.