Monday, September 28, 2015

     A friend of mine asked me how I can “put myself out there” like I do in so many situations. I give speeches, I play concerts, I introduce speakers in front of hundreds of people, I entertain ladies’ groups. My friend knows I am very sensitive and don’t handle judgment or criticism very well. So why and how do I do it? And for her, why can’t or doesn’t she? 

     I believe that if God gave us talents, we should use them and share them. I believe that if we know we have talent, and we don’t share it, we are not being grateful. I believe that if we want to perform and don’t out of fear of rejection or judgment, we will never stretch and grow. I believe that we all need a resilience tool box to deal with the rejection, judgment and criticism that people who are not even in the arena feel they have a right to exercise. 

   My friend spoke of the physical terror and emotional fear she would have if she were to allow herself to be vulnerable in front of large groups of people like I do. I agreed with her that there is definitely a physical reaction to fear of being judged or of making a fool of oneself. The heart races, the hands shake or get sweaty, the body heats up, the knees feel like jelly. These are all reactions that many performers have in common. That is a normal and pervasive phenomenon that most performers experience at some level. Sometimes the
adrenaline that flows can enhance a performance, other times, it can potentially destroy it. The emotional trauma of standing up in front of large audiences can get so overwhelming that some performers have been known to literally refuse to go on stage or get sick before they do. This begs the question:  Is it worth it? Absolutely. The “high” I feel when I know I have “nailed a speech,” touched a life, made people laugh—there is no more exhilarating feeling.

     That’s the why of the performance itself, but the why of the reason I perform is much greater; I enjoy the process. When I prepare a speech, I learn. I spend hours researching a topic, looking for good quotes or stories to support my message. Then I get “high” from the creative process of putting it all together in a dynamic, meaningful way so that my audience can experience the message as I’m delivering it. Then I have even more fun rehearsing it—watching myself in the mirror, recording it and working on my voice to be sure I am articulate, sincere and powerful. Finally, I get dressed up in whatever outfit makes me feel professional and attractive, and out I go on the stage. For me, the applause is the icing on the cake; it’s the ingredients and the mixing that stirs me and pours me out all cooked and ready for consumption. Learning, creating, reheasing, performing--it's all wonderful.