This is for all of you who are experience singing embarrassment or shame about how you sing or have sung at one time or another.
I wrote it in response to a person who commented here on one of my pages, but it also has to do with anyone who has felt singing embarrassment of singing shame when performing.
I want to tell you a little story… a true story about myself. And although it is about embarrassment and shame I felt at a piano recital, it has to do with singing embarrassment too.
When I was about 9 years old and studying piano in Los Angeles, I had practiced hard to play an advanced piano piece for the annual recital my teacher always gave for the families and friends of all her students.
There had been a great deal of pressure put on me because I had shown a strong talent at an early age, so I was apparently really nervous about getting everything perfect, although I didn’t know it at the time. What happened as a result of the über stressful expectation others had put on me about being perfect actually became my own stress, my own expectation. I wanted to please my teacher, my family, the other students, the entire audience. I didn’t want them to be disappointed.
What happened next was one of the most miserable and embarrassing things that ever happened to me during a performance: in the middle of the piece (I don’t remember what it was), I choked.
I was playing without the sheet music and I knew the piece backwards and forwards, but I choked and made a mistake, then tried to correct it, which made me more tense, which then made me freeze up.
Chagrined, I ran from the piano and into a room near the performance area, then threw myself down on a chair and cried, and sobbed, and could hardly catch my breath.
Suddenly, my teacher and my mother were at my side, trying to encourage me by saying things like “It’s ok, you did your best,” “Nobody is perfect,” and things like that.
Those words just made me feel worse.
Then I was so embarrassed that I had run away from the piano and felt wretched that I had messed up the entire recital… or so I thought. Of course, I hadn’t, but at the time I was sure I had.
On and on I went inside my mind and tears. The worse I felt the worse it would get.
Finally, after I had sobbed out all I could sob out, my teacher and mother had the good sense to encourage me to go back out to the piano and finish playing the piece.
At first I didn’t want to do it. I felt too ashamed. But they finally convinced me, and even though I could not look at the audience because of my shame, I went back to the piano and started the piece again. Of course, I played it all the way through that time without any mistakes.
Later at that recital I got an award for being the best piano student of the year in the young age category. Inside I didn’t feel like I deserved it because I had messed up the piece the first time.
It took me a lot of time to get over that horrible experience. But this one thing I know for sure: I got up that day and went back to the piano. Because I did that I kept going and later learned how to sing well in front of people and TV cameras, etc.
My love of music eventually overcame my self-inflicted shame. My focus went from my shame to the beauty of the music and how it made me feel, whether I made mistakes or not.
I also had really good teachers in life who stressed that everyone makes mistakes. Everyone! The best of the best of the best. And those people are the first ones to admit it!
So, here’s what I want you to do.
- Stand as close as you can to a mirror. Look deeply into your eyes and face the singing embarrassment and shame you feel. Feel it, own it, then tell yourself that you are going to find a way to let it go. Even if you don’t feel like you will find a way right now, make the determination to find a way the biggest part of your statement. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to find a way, it only matters that you stalwartly commit to finding a way.
- Don’t listen to what anyone else says that makes you feel less confident. Instead, surround yourself with people who tell you that you will find the answers you need to gain your confidence back. Listen to those people and ask them questions about how they think you can not only regain the confidence you once had, but get MORE confidence than you ever had before!
- Shoot higher. Don’t settle for what was in the past. Find what you love about singing and focus on that. Nothing else. Not your confidence, not yourself, not the audience, not how you look, and definitely not how you have let yourself down.
Remember my story. I was 9 when it happened. I could have let it stop me, but I didn’t. So, if I can get back up there so can you.
We are the same. We are humans who are not perfect… humans who don’t need to destroy ourselves because we aren’t perfect.
I wish you were in the room with me right now, because I know that I could help you with this.
But for now, listen to what I am sharing from my heart, because I know this feeling of singing embarrassment, shame and fear.
And I say to you… let it go. And don’t let anyone else stop you from letting it go.
All my best,