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Singers: You Don't Have to Be Great (Good Enough is Good Enough)

perfectionism performance anxiety


You see that singer on The Voice belting her heart out…

You see your cousin playing the guitar and singing so well the last time you went to your aunt's house.

You feel a pang of envy. You wish you were a good singer.

You like to sing but there is something blocking you mentally and emotionally.

Usually, those things that are blocking you can be boiled down to performance anxiety.

Consider the following situations:

  • You like to sing but you don’t like the sound of your voice
  • You are afraid of singing out of tune because people will laugh at you
  • You are afraid of making a fool of yourself if you forget the lyrics
  • You feel awkward being emotionally expressive while singing in public

Those are all situations and thoughts that trigger self consciousness (which is a form of performance anxiety).

Origin of Self Consciousness

I do not know you but I am willing to bet this self consciousness did not come from nowhere. You were not born with this self consciousness (unless you have pre-existing psychological conditions from birth e.g. ADHD, autism etc).

Even if you have pre-existing psychological conditions, with effort, you can overcome your self-consciousness.

For the sake of this blog post, we will assume you do not have any pre-existing psychological conditions.

Going hand in hand with self consciousness is the perfectionist mindset.

I want you to think back to a time when you were a child. Remember how much you loved singing around the house and in the car? Remember how you sang because you enjoyed it and you did not care how you sounded?

From what point onwards did that change? Was there a specific event that made you anxious? Did your choir teacher call you a “crow”? Did your classmates laugh at your singing?
Or was it a collection of experiences as you were growing up? Your life experiences in other areas such as academic achievements and sports expectations can also impact your mindset as a singer. Maybe you did not do well academically and your self esteem suffered. Could it be you were always compared to the other dancers who were more flexible and always had more energy?

Those events turned you into an overachiever or at least having an overachieving/perfectionist mindset. This mindset is a defense mechanism. For example, if you always try to exceed expectations and make sure everything is ‘perfect’, you will achieve excellence more often. You will not be reminded of your weaknesses. Your self efficacy (how well you think you can do something) and self esteem (how you see and think about yourself) stay high.

Those are the benefits of being a perfectionist.

What you do not realize consciously is that there are downsides to being a perfectionist. You feel anxious all the time because you feel like you have to get everything right, every single time. If you think about it logically, is that an achievable goal? Can you really get everything right, every single time? That is the definition of “perfection”. You cannot make a single mistake in your entire life because even one mistake means things are not perfect anymore.

Can you see now how much pressure you are putting yourself under? No wonder you have performance anxiety.

Reframe the Situation

“Reframing” something means changing the way you think about something.

Most things are out of our control, even our own emotions. What we do have control over is our thoughts. That is good news because our thoughts affect our emotions. Changing our thoughts will change how we feel.

If someone says you always sing out of tune, it is natural that you feel bad about it. You cannot control what that person says. You do have control over how you respond to that situation. You can do more ear training exercises and vocal agility exercises to improve your pitch accuracy. You will tell yourself that you are doing the best you can with what you have; and that getting good at something takes time. What other people do not see is how hard you work. And that is fine because you know the results will come if you keep working hard.

That is an example of reframing the situation (thinking and doing something different from your usual response).

We All Have to Start Somewhere

Where you are right now is where you start. The good news is it can only get better from here.

“It’s not where you start but where you finish that counts” - Zig Ziglar

Focus on getting tiny wins each day and the improvements will add up over time.

Forget being great right off the bat. Good enough is good enough. The harder and the longer you work on your singing, your “good enough” will be better and better over time.

You got this!

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