This is a series about conquering stage fright. First, we talked about the importance of knowing yourself. Then, we talked about the fear factor. Third, we talked about creating positive experiences to help fight the panic. Fourth, we looked at the importance of knowing what you’re doing. Last week, we talked about the danger of focusing on results.
The other day I read a fantastic blog post by one of my favourite writers, Sarah Duncan. She was advising the readers of her blog to give themselves permission to write rubbish. Sarah wrote:
“I tell students to write rubbish because the worst bit of rubbishy writing on the page is worth more than the most perfect bit of prose stuck in your head. Stuff on the page can be improved, developed, tweaked,given colour and life and energy and style. Stuff in your head is – well, stuff in your head. It can’t be read by anyone.”
I think there are two important points to draw out of this.
- To do something well, you have to do it a lot. A lot. And you have to be prepared for some of what you do to be rubbish. There is no point waiting around for perfect inspiration to strike! I wrote about the importance of practice here.
- You have to give yourself permission to fail. It is important to allow yourself to be bad at something.
Reasons to be rubbish
- Everyone has to start somewhere. Even the greatest musicians and artists started off at the beginning. And part of being at the beginning is making mistakes.
- Mistakes are part of the learning process. Robert Kiyosaki writes about this very effectively in his book If You Want to be Rich and Happy, Don’t Go to School.
- Perfection paralyses creativity. If you wait for perfection before you put the sentence on the page (or the brush on the canvas), you’ll be consigning yourself to a potentially angst-ridden experience.
FM Alexander remarked in 1923 upon the fact that our response to stimuli is in part determined by our psycho-physical condition. He reminds us that “a man’s conception of his present or future financial condition in life is different when he is … in a good and happy ‘frame of mind’, from what it is when he has a ‘grouch’.”* And Cognitive Behavioural Therapy would tell us that our frame of mind is a decision we have made based upon a thought process. (See Burns’ Feeling Good)
Therefore, making a different decision about how we are going to respond to the concept of failure is actually really important. Nobody particularly wants to fail. So we mentally (and possibly physically) tense up in preparation. It is hard to be creative and perform well when tense.
So if we give ourselves permission to fail, we on’t merely take pressure off ourselves. We may even give ourselves the freedom to perform better.
But what about the performance? I can’t give a bad Groom’s speech!
It’s true that sometimes the rubber has to hit the road. You have to be ready. But that’s why it’s a great idea to give yourself lots of trials runs, having a go in low-risk situations where it is easier to allow yourself to fail. If you have to give a speech, join Toastmasters and get some practice there. If you’re a musician, find a group to play with informally. Play in small competitions. Find places to try things out and be rubbish. Then you’ll be more prepared when you’re in the performance where it has to ‘count’.
Will you give yourself permission to fail?
* FM Alexander, Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual in the Irdeat Complete Edition, p.240.