When we perform ourselves in front of an audience we want them to remember us for the right reasons. So often we are worried that we will mess up and then the memory they will go away with is of how terrible we are.
In this blog I take a look at what it takes to stand out from the crowd, what gets in the way of us doing this and how we can change that.
Hi, I’m Hattie Voelcker and I just reread one of my old blogs all about How to stand out for the right reasons as a performer. It was based on this picture that I had seen of a big yellow umbrella in a grey sky filled with grey and black umbrellas. I talked about how the fact that not every performer or everybody who performs is a natural extrovert.
Personally, I’m a natural introvert. Some people are extroverts but we’re not all of us extroverts, but we all have something in common and that is when we perform, when we put ourselves out there in public, we want to stand out for all the right reasons. We want to shine for our brilliance and we don’t want attention to be drawn to us because of the things that we consider our faults. Because when we put ourselves out there, we know one thing for absolute certain. We will be judged.
Now we won’t be judged in the way that we think we’ll be judged. Audiences judge us very differently to the way that we think we’re going to be judged. But it is true that people will make a judgement about what they think of what we have to say or sing and who they think we are. We want to be judged for the stuff that we do well, but we actually fear we’re going be judged for all the stuff that we’re still working on, all the stuff that we are a little bit ashamed of or a little bit embarrassed about. Our biggest fear is that those are the things that will show up and those are the things that will get noticed.
I read a while ago, and that’s what triggered the original blog, an article all about stage fright and how when performers make a mistake on stage they have a tendency to recoil inside themselves, to start putting the armour of stage fright on to protect themselves. That idea that we put this armour on so that we won’t get harmed, we won’t get embarrassed and we will stay safe. That armour can be as crippling as to actually stop us going on stage. It’s a subconscious and a physical thing that can happen to us. The solution is not to put the armour on. That is the impulse. The impulse is to put the armour on, but the solution is to take the armour off, to strip naked so that we can really connect with the audience and show them who we authentically are. That’s the way to commit to the music, to commit to the message, to commit what we’re saying or singing and to keep that conduit between us open. That’s the real solution to when you make a mistake but it’s not the natural inclination.
If we keep the armour on, what we’re doing is we may be keeping safe. It depends on your definition of safe and definition of success. What we’re doing is keeping ourselves small, keeping ourselves a little bit muted. We then can’t show the world the true yellow umbrella inside us, our true brilliance and we become one of the grey umbrellas. We become at best just one of many and we may not even make it to the sky. So, the yellow umbrella can’t shine through the armour and when we try and hide our faults, we hide our brilliance too.
I was talking with a client the other day about achieving goals and how we achieve our goals and how the inclination for me and for him was that if we’re trying to achieve something and we’re struggling, we just apply more effort, we just try harder. There’s an element of control there, that if I can control it more, if I can have more control over it then I will achieve what I want to achieve. We discussed the idea of how letting go can achieve more sometimes. Letting go can get us to the next level and that this idea that actually you can’t fly whilst you’re holding onto the ground, whilst you’re anchored. In order to fly you have to let go.
But that takes guts. It takes quite literally a leap of faith and our fear, the reason we don’t want to let go, is that all those faults, all those things that we’re embarrassed about or what we’re still working on, will come flooding to the surface and that’s what people will see. That the only reason that they’re not coming flooding to the surface is that we’re keeping control. Although somehow we’re not, and sometimes actually our worries and our attempts to control are actually the cause of the problem. With so many breathing problems, with so many technique problems actually anxiety, worry, overthinking and letting our conscious mind decide which muscles to constrict or relax, is actually what’s getting in the way, and if we let go, we’d be better off.
Tim Gallwey says, in the inner game of tennis, that our subconscious mind can, in its attempts to control, sabotage the work of the subconscious and the body. So, if we trust ourselves, if we trust to let go and trust to take off the armour, it can do three things for us. It can give us a chance to shine, it can give us a chance to be the yellow umbrella in the sky for all the right reasons. It will make it easier for our audiences to connect with us, truly us and see what we want them to see. And issues that we’re struggling with may disappear as we let go of that worry and fear.
This applies to mistakes that we make during performance. If when we make a mistake in performance we can let go of that mistake, let it fly off away from us, we don’t hold on to it. Then we can keep the channel between us and the audience open, we can keep the armour off. If we stay attached to it, then the armour will come on. But if we let go of it, we can be free to continue to communicate what we really want to communicate, to commit to the message, the narrative, the music, the story, the character.
So that’s what our audience gets. And our audience will forgive the mistakes we make if they are given a brilliant performance. They don’t need a perfect performance. They need one that’s authentic and true and brilliant and they will forgive us all sorts of mistakes. Especially if the music or message moves or chimes with them, and it’s more likely to happen if we are fully committed to it. To do that we have to let go of our fears and our worries. Also, when we are then judged, as we are judged as performers, we won’t be judged for a muted version of ourselves, we will be judged for the pure yellow true authentic version, brilliant version of ourselves. So, we will be able to be who we are and be seen for who we are. So, go out be a yellow umbrella and let go of your worries and fears and just go for it.