In an interview a couple of years back about my book The Art of Singing, I was asked how I advise clients- both performers and professionals- to remain centered and unaffected by negative reviews. It was and remains a great question... a question I still encounter almost daily in my practice.
Here is my answer.
I love the Tao Te Ching, and reference it often. It, along with the tenants of Buddhism and other eastern philosophies, discuss the nature of duality and how a lack of attachment is the first step on the path to peace. I agree, and feel that readings in these areas would benefit all artists, and indeed, all people.
One of the most challenging aspects of this concept for us Westerners is the need to release all attachment... to the negative as well as the positive. We must not only let go of the bad reviews or feedback. We too, while appreciating them, must also let go of the good ones. If we're attached to either, we are attached to both. Only when we are able to achieve a true release- to be fully in the present moment without judgment of any kind- may the experience of performing open up with a thrill that far surpasses any external validation.
It may be tempting to dismiss these ideas as idealistic or even unrealistic. But before you do, consider those performers and performances that you feel are top-notch. Those that you remember and think of as truly transformational. I'd bet that for most of us, it is those artists that- from the moment they step on stage- powerfully draw us into their worlds and experiences. We are attracted not to their ‘perfection' but to their sincerity... to the permission they give us through their own vulnerability to bring forth a similar honesty within ourselves...
Certainly we all need critics, and I suggest that clients welcome constructive criticism as opportunities to see themselves through new eyes, to learn, and to grow. But then it- along with all of the wonderful compliments- must be set aside. While on stage, let prior, future, and even current opinions fade- including your own. They no longer and do not yet exist. All that is present is the moment. Do your best, open your heart, and share yourself.
Jennifer Hamady, MA is a voice coach and counselor specializing in emotional issues that interfere with self-expression. Her first book: The Art of Singing: Discovering and Developing Your True Voice, has been heralded as a breakthrough in the psychology of personal and musical performance by BackStage and Variety.