Many people assume that I am what you call an “extrovert” and that everything I do in public comes easily. They may think this because they watch me rambling in videos or go out in town wearing a sandwich board to promote our exhibition. The truth is, I am painfully shy and would rather crawl under a heavy rock than put myself out there. That said, I’ve gotten better at managing my anxiety about publicly engaging in embarrassment over the years.
Klee has a saying, “The remedy for fear of doing the thing is to do the thing until you’re not afraid anymore.”
Obviously, it’s not easy. Your mind can quickly spiral downward into worst-case scenarios, and your body will betray you in ways that can be embarrassing. Trust me. Gas bubbles are no joke. However, the choice is simple for me. Either you face the fear, or you run away from it.
Today, I will face an irrational fear I have carried with me for years. Singing on stage is one of those things I have always wanted to do but could not bring myself to do it. Sure, I have played guitar in front of a group of people a few times and have even had my knees give out from anxiety, but singing is a whole other ball of wax.
So, how do you face fear when it can be paralyzing? I don’t know, but I can tell you what I do.
Shift Your Focus. Whenever I am doing something that scares me, I try not to allow myself to overthink myself and my fear. That’s where your mind will go into fight or flight. I think about why I’m doing it or the combination of why. For example, with music, I want to challenge myself to do the thing so I can prove to myself I can. It doesn’t matter if I screw it up. What matters is that I did it. The other thing I focus on is bringing something of value and not running away from who I am.
Understand That Things Might Go Wrong. Back in the day, before I even attempted to do anything that was in public, I would ruminate on it going wrong. Our mind tends to want to protect us from embarrassing moments, so it will bombard you with things that will dissuade you from doing something that scares you. The truth is, things might go wrong. So what? Those moments, you either roll with it and laugh or fall apart. Tonight, I know I will screw up a few times, and how I deal with it is what matters.
Know That Self Doubt Is The Challenge. We all have insecurities. Honestly, things changed for me when I stopped focusing on what people thought about me and more on what I thought about myself. The truth is, no one cares if you screw up. We tend to worry that people will hate what we do or call us names, but ultimately it is YOU thinking the thoughts. When I play music tonight, I know the people are there to support me. If anyone is a hater, that says more about them than me, and they can eat a bag.
It’s A Muscle Thing. Many of us will have a physical reaction to stress. Your body may get jittery, and you may experience shortness of breath. Fight or flight does exciting things to us, but it is only a physical response. It’s not reality. I know my body will freak out tonight, and that’s ok. Deep breathing, relaxation exercises, and a quick meditation may not make it go away, but at least I’ll have something else to focus on.
Just Have Fun. Most importantly, I must constantly remind myself that the experience will be whatever I say it is. No matter how it goes tonight, I can walk away from this feeling empowered and better for it, or the opposite. It’s up to me.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what your experience will be, not your fear.
As for now, I am preparing my equipment and getting ready for our concert tonight. If you happen to be in Oil City and want to watch me screw up on stage, you are welcome to come to Graffiti Gallery on 8-12-2022 for our concert at 5 PM EDT. We will be there talking about our art from 3 PM – 7 PM. Luckily for me, Klee shares the stage with me and she is AWESOME!
There will be delicious EMPANADAS prepared by our beautiful and talented friend Nessacraft (who you can follow because she is incredible). What are empanadas, you ask? Empanadas are a Puerto Rican pastry turnover filled with savory ingredients that are either baked or fried and DELICIOUS! This is the awesome human who is making them.
I’ll also do a book reading the next day at 4 PM (we’ll be at the gallery from 12 PM – 6 PM). Surprisingly, I’m not scared of that at all.
Have a fabulous weekend!