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Why do we have to Live Fearless before we can Sing Free? Is it even possible to live free of fear? How do we tackle the seemingly overwhelming process of overcoming our fears and allowing ourselves to freely express who we are? This is a process I am still in the middle of, and a journey I feel we all need to take in order to truly be the best singers, and the best people, we can be. My goal in these posts is to share some of my journey as a singer and performer and the fears I have dealt with, along with some that I’m still dealing with, and hopefully give you some encouragement and empower you to deal with your own fears. I believe that we were all designed to Live Fearless and Sing Free! So let’s go on this journey together and root out those fears that are holding us back from truly being free.
We all deal with fear in some way. Maybe it’s a fear of public speaking, or singing in front of other people, or even simply admitting you want to sing. Auditions can cause anxiety, performances can cause panic attacks, and sometimes even just having to sing happy birthday to our friends can cause us to shrink back and not want anyone to hear us. There is something very personal and often incredibly vulnerable about sharing your voice with others, it can be a very scary thing.
I have found for myself, as well as many of my voice students, that as we deal with our fears and insecurities about our voice or singing in front of people, it often reveals and confronts fears in other areas of our lives. I believe this is because the root of our “performance anxiety” is often the same root as our anxiety in other areas of our life. Even if getting up in front of a crowd of people to belt out the Star Spangled Banner is not your goal, examining how you feel about using your voice in front of people can help you discover and address any inhibitions you may have about sharing your voice, your thoughts, and yourself with the world. It can help you be bold and stand up for yourself, give you more confidence sharing your ideas in the workplace, or simply help you feel more comfortable striking up a conversation with new people. So while I may direct most of these posts to specific things singers deal with, remember that we ALL have a VOICE. Even if you aren’t singing on stage in front of hundreds of people, it’s important to feel free to share your voice, and who you are, with those around you.
Dealing with fear is one of the first things I talk about in voice lessons, even before working on vocal technique. What many of us don’t realize is that while vocal technique is important, the mental and emotional component is just as, if not more, important. The reality is that our fears have a physical effect on us. There is a physical response to being afraid: Fight, flight, or freeze. Most people get tense or lose their breath when they are nervous, which counteracts your vocal technique. So while the first techniques we work on are breathing and relaxing, those are also usually the first things to go out the window if you aren’t able to control your nerves when you got to perform!
Not only does your fear affect your physical ability, but that emotional connection and expression that makes a truly great performance only comes when we are confident and not holding back our voice or our personality! It takes a great deal of vulnerability to have a truly authentic performance. That authenticity is what makes your performance real and unique to you, it is what makes your performance special. True authenticity requires vulnerability and takes great courage.
Just like our performance is made up of physical and emotional components, I feel like our fears can also be broken down into physical (practical) and emotional fears. In my journey, I found that while I dealt first with the physical/practical side of things, in truth those things were only symptoms of the deeper emotional reasons for those fears…like perfectionism. Practical fears are those things that can be worked out with practice. Things like being afraid of hitting the wrong note, tripping on stage, forgetting the lyrics (that’s my big one!!), having my voice crack, etc. Those are things I can work on in practice and feel confident when I walk on stage because I’ve done it correctly in practice.
While I do have some tips on how to practice through those types of fears, I think the most important thing is really getting to the Root of those fears and dealing with those deep emotional fears that cause us to feel terror at the thought of screwing up. Let’s be honest, none of us are going to have a perfect performance every time. We have all made mistakes on stage…seriously, the stories I have of forgetting lyrics, singing the wrong tune, and even losing a shoe on stage, while funny now, were not so awesome when they happen in front of a huge crowd of people.
So in the next few posts we are going to break down those practical fears and dive in to what may be underneath them. Why is it so terrible for my voice to break, or for me to forget the lyrics? What do I think will happen if I mess up? Why is it so important for my performance to be perfect? For me answering these questions is how voice lessons became like therapy for my whole life!
Even now I’m working through another layer of deep things that can cause me to hold back from being vulnerable and truly authentic, in life and in my performance. I feel like throughout this journey God has often brought me back to those early days of working through my practical fears and the emotional fears underneath them to reveal and confront another layer of what is keeping me from singing completely free. My hope is that no matter where you are on your journey, as I share mine we can all grow in our ability Live Fearless and Sing Free!