This may come as a surprise to some of you but I was not always as confident as I am now. I used to be the shy kid who got bullied. The one that hides behind her Mum’s legs, who wouldn’t get into the game no matter how good the prize was if it meant being in the public eye, who wanted to be in the school play but who needed all seven years to pluck up the courage to do it! I hated public speaking and presentations. I hated talking on the phone to strangers, I couldn’t ever walk up to people I didn’t know and begin a conversation, or worse, actually have to ask for something!
Even as an adult there have been times when I have been curled up on my bed anticipating a gig in a ball of fear, or hanging on to the steering wheel, knuckles white, in the car outside a venue terrified to go in. Terrified of what might happen if… If… If?!?!?
So how did I get to the place where I can sing to thousands of people without breaking a sweat, where public speaking is of no concern, where I can walk into a room full of strangers and feel comfortable with what’s about to unfold, where people keep telling me “oh you’re so brave” and “You seem so relaxed and at ease on stage”?!
Firstly let me say this: No-one is born with confidence, nor can it be bestowed upon you. You have to grow it yourself by doing and overcoming repeatedly. So here are a few tips for getting on with that process.
Never done it before? Before you even begin adopt the belief that you can do anything you want, with patience and practice, and that you can only fail by quitting, not by making a mistake and messing it up, because that’s how you learn and improve. Get that belief down and you’re most of the way there! Then, give yourself regular pep talks where you tell yourself how capable you are and how you can do this! My mirror and I have a lot of chats like this!
Anyway, let’s say for example, that you want to go and perform at an open mic and you are terrified because you’ve never done it before. First of all, what you have to realise is that ‘never done it before’ isn’t entirely true because doesn’t apply to the entire situation.
I failed a piano performance exam once in front of my entire college year group and some visitors too. I didn’t even finish the piece before I got up and walked off stage. The reason? It wasn’t because I couldn’t perform the piece, I’d rehearsed it over and over. The problem was that all my rehearsals had taken place in a quiet little space on a upright piano that I’d fallen in love with. My exam was on a grand piano with a completely different feel, on a stage in a massive auditorium, with a mic in front of my face, and an audience – Everything about the experience was different! I really hadn’t done it before and it totally threw me. I later passed the exam when I was allowed to play the familiar piano completely un-amplified.
So if you are broaching a new situation try to make as many aspects of it as familiar as possible. If playing your first open mic, you may never have been watched by so many people but you have held the guitar in your hands, you have sung the song before, you have worn the clothes before. If you can get into the space and experience it before hand, do it. If there will be anything about the new situation that you can practice in advance, do it! You can even visualise the audience, practice speaking/singing in your mind to a room full of people, your body doesn’t actually know the difference between real and make believe, if it going on in your head, it must be real! It’s one less thing you’ll never have done before in the actual moment. Then believe in yourself, believe the people are for you not against you, and go for it!
Having done it once. Celebrate! No matter how it went, it’s new ground.I love that saying that once you have expanded to solve a problem or face a challenge you become a bigger person, because once you’ve done it you know how to deal with it you can’t un-know it! I also love the thought that there’s no such thing as failure… Just results. It takes the good/bad/right/wrong judgements out of it. What results did you get? If you got what you wanted – Great! If not, what can you change next time that will get you nearer to your desired outcome?
If other people have are quick to criticise then I recommend reading my post on Coping With Criticism. In short though, ignore them, don’t rehearse the bits you weren’t happy with in your mind a million times, just resolve to change that bit, and then get back out there and do it again!
Having done it a thousand times. It’s true that the person who has done something a thousand times is going to be pretty good at it, and they will have a natural confidence that grew with time and repetition! You will get to that eventually but there are a few tricks to be learned from the person who has done it a thousand times that you can employ having only done it a few times… You can emulate some of their methods. A person who has done something thousands of times has an ease about them. Ease is a bodily state with a series of sub-modalities that can be replicated right now. When you think of someone who is at ease, what are they doing with their body? How are they breathing? What’s their eye contact like? How do they speak? How fast does their heart beat? Before and during any show I now think ‘Ease’ and set my body to feel that way. I slow my breathing down which slows my heart rate, I relax and integrate my muscles so that my body moves as a whole fluid being, I smile. It’s so much easier to play and relate to the people around me when I feel at ease. And you can’t feel terrified if you feel at ease!
BUT WHAT IF???? There will always be ‘What if…?’s but a friend posted this on Instagram recently and I think it pretty much say’s it all…
But how will you know if you don’t try? 😉