What is your attitude after a performance? Are you in it for the accolades, the audiences immediate response, and then the good things people say to you after a performance starting with your colleagues, conductor, stage director, stage manager, fans, to family and critics, etc? Does this help give you your identity that totally depends on the amount of approval you get from performing? If so this means that how you feel about yourself; your self esteem, your “self talk”, depends on “how” you feel you are perceived as a performer. There is no other touch stone for you to check in with to know who you are or if you are living a full and balanced life.
In my experience, this kind of crazy making can hold you prisoner on the inside. It creates an imbalance in you. If you are not performing or when you have an occasional not so good performance, the audience doesn’t love it and neither do the critics, it can quickly send you into a downward spiral that often creates a place that is hard to recover from and moving on to the next job seem impossible. You are afraid you will never be hired again, or if you are, those that hired you will be looking closely to see if there are cracks in what you are presenting and there will be a repeat of the previous “not so good” performance. So you start the crazy making by playing the part you think they are looking for, not as the performer, but as the person. You adjust, scrutinize and judge your every movement, sound and action to conform to what you think they want from you.
And often, those who have performed all of their lives and have believed and bought into the hype about themselves and their careers have, when it comes time to retire, had severe bouts of deep and even life threatening depression which has sometimes ended in suicide . They often feel that no one will care about them if they are not able to function as that persona. They haven’t practiced being a “whole” person during their lifetime. Instead they have created an exterior façade for the whole world to love and appreciate with little to support it on the inside. If they don’t receive the accolades, perceived love and attention from others, they are not sure who they are. How can they then justify their existence?
Balance is so very important no matter what you do in life. What does that mean? How do you achieve it? How does it fit into what you do when you perform? How does one maintain balance throughout one’s whole life?
“Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong.” – Peter T. Mcintyre
First of all, performing is about doing the job you have prepared yourself to do at your optimal level, where you skills and ability are right for this moment. It’s about accepting this concept and knowing that one never stops learning and improving throughout not only your whole career, but also your whole life. No one is perfect. At least I have never met anyone who is. What each of us thinks is perfect is usually very different from what the next guy thinks is perfect, so where does that leave our ability to be or do anything perfectly? No one is a failure. At least I have never met anyone who is only and always a failure. What you think of as failure is probably not what the next guy thinks constitutes failure is. So where does that leave our ability to be or do everything as a failure? The whole purpose of living life out loud and on purpose, is to not be afraid to be who you are from the inside out, accept that you will experience failure and make mistakes and because you have this new piece of information, this new tool, it then becomes about how you choose to deal with it. This is how we learn just about everything. The degree of failure and mistakes is irrelevant; instead it’s about your ability to take the time to learn something from them and then apply that to what you do next and the cycle continues.
This is the process of living a balanced life; this is the process of learning to help maintain that balanced life. The big choice comes in either allowing yourself to be awake and consciously present while doing your job, whatever that might be in that moment or instead getting all caught up in your past emotional baggage, what you think others think of you and continue to beat yourself up by thinking that here is yet another example of why you don’t succeed.
“Any fact facing us is not as important as our attitude toward it, for that determines our success or failure. The way you think about a fact may defeat you before you ever do anything about it. You are overcome by the fact because you think you are.” – Norman Vincent Peale
Performing is simply a job and lucky are those that can make a living at it when participating in this amazing industry. When you perform from a place of loving the process, music, character and the relationships and interaction between all those involved in this process, you don’t have to rely on others to feel good about your involvement and performance because you know who you are on the inside and that you are more than just a performer. Remember that you are also being a really good friend to others, a sister or brother, a lover, a teacher, a Mother or Father, Aunt or Uncle. We play so many roles in life, not just on stage. Is your behavior the same for each role you play or do you play a completely different part for each role, and if so, isn’t that exhausting?
Knowing who you are on the inside and being comfortable with that, allows you be more of that in the outside world in a consistent manner. It doesn’t mean everyone will like you or agree with you. It does mean that each experience presents you with a choice as to how you want to deal with it. And this is the same kind of life long process as getting better at singing and performing. It’s all about trial, error, and practicing then doing it all over again until you get the kind of results you like and feel that is runs constant from the inside out. You don’t have to rely on others to give you self esteem, courage, choice, acceptance, freedom, appreciation, etc. Sure it’s always nice to get compliments and accolades for a performance well done. But these can then be put into perspective and appreciated for what they are, not esteem boosters only. It means that you have done your job well and at the same time gives you the opportunity to still learn from your experience what needs some tweaking or more practice. That helps keeps you balanced and in tune with the you on the inside. It allows you to know that both the inner self and the self others perceive on the outside are in agreement and are consistently aligned with one another. And remember that it doesn’t mean everyone will like you or agree with you, but that is just how the world is and it’s OK. What you do or are apprenticing to do is not who you are. Living your life each day encompasses so much more than just your job; it includes creating and maintaining relationships on all fronts, getting out in nature and loving it, shopping and loving that, reading books that interest you, going to movies that appeal to your senses, making time for your family and friends, volunteering, etc. It always allows you to be curious, compassionate, loving and pretty darn consistent in how you choose to handle it all.
“Minds are like parachutes – they only function when open.” – Thomas Dewar
So take the time to understand what’s going on with others is not always about you the person or you as the performer. Start where you are right this minute and decide to expand your thinking to include that you are more than an aspiring artist or professional performer. All of your past experiences have helped mold you into who you are and will continue to do so as you move through life. It’s up to you to remain balanced, accept that failure and mistakes are how we learn things and a big part of life – this is not a life or death thing, it’s up to you to choose how you want to deal with them, trying to second guess what others are thinking of you is none of your business, you are worth making the most out of your journey, so start living it on purpose and stay well balanced.
Ciao until next month, and continue to enjoy your summer. Carol