There has been a whole lot of the above this week in my studio. One terrific singer is on her way to compete at the Apollo Theater in New York. The other is in Los Angeles beginning this season of American Idol.
Any performance can be nerve-wracking, but there is something about competitions—especially televised ones!—that really ups the ante. I sang backup on Idol a few years ago, and vividly remember how crazy things can get for those young men and women. So much is at stake, so much is on the line... it can seem barely possible to hold it all together, much less to have a wonderful time and savor the experience.
Yet that is exactly what I am telling them to do. And there's only one way to do it.
To remember the following: You are talented. But you are not your talent. Your specialness has nothing to do with what you do. It is an internal quality—an inherent gift—that is yours forever, whether or not you ever sing another note.
This should be reassuring to singers. And it would be, if they believed it.
Our culture does quite a job of blurring the lines between having a talent and being talented. As a result, we tend to celebrate people for what they do, not for who they are, reinforcing the notion that "it" is more important—and more valuable—than them.
This seems all the more real for those who, at an early age, get too close to this cultural view and start to intertwine their talent with their self-worth. From that moment on, failure is no longer an opportunity to learn and do better next time. It is the feared confirmation of being truly, completely, and utterly unworthy. Which explains why for so many people competitions—and even performing—are painful, traumatic, and nerve-wracking experiences.
It is wonderful to have a talent. But talent is not what makes us wonderful. Remembering this distinction is what gives people power, freedom, and the ability to develop and share that talent—as well as themselves—without reservation.
I look forward to that sharing from Ericka, Nick, and all of the truly wonderful men and women that I have the pleasure and honor to work with.
To learn more about the psychology of singing and performing, click here to read Jennifer's book: "The Art of Singing: Discovering and Developing Your True Voice"
To learn more about Jennifer's work and to schedule a session, click here to visit her website