She was nervous and it showed, with her wringing hands and her speaking voice. Her first words in the video were, ‘hello’ when greeted and ‘scared’ when asked how she was. The video moves between the start of her singing to her talking about stage fright while waiting. The music swells as she wipes away her tears and talks about her fears opening my heart.
Then she sang and she sang well. Not perfectly but with feeling and enough belief that I was glued to my seat. The judges, including the harshest judge Simon Cowell, loved her performance, calling her voice ‘liquid gold’.
Later that day I came across the controversy. Alice had tried out for The Voice UK first but didn't get through. She had been rejected. Her performance was upbeat and lively, and her confidence had been high but she didn’t make it. Those who had seen her in both performances accused her of being a fake. Confident one minute, shy the next.
What? Oh, I have so many directions I could go with this!
Lets start with rejection. Have you ever been rejected? Had someone you love tell you that they didn’t want to be with you any longer? Interviewed for the job of your dreams and been turned down? Made a presentation that was not well received? Offered a helping hand only to have it slapped away? I have to believe that everyone has been rejected at some point in his or her life. I bet even those calling her a fake!
Lets talk about fear. Jerry Seinfeld quipped, “According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” I cannot imagine standing up on that stage to sing like Alice or the many other performers that do. But they find ways to conquer the fear.
How about being fake? There are some days when my confidence level is a bit higher than others, how about you? It is only fake when you cannot find your true self, the authentic self, behind the mask you provide. Time will tell with Alice but at the very least you have to applaud her ability to act and for showing her versatility as a performer if she didn’t really feel what she projected in either of the performances. She may succeed as an actress.
For the rest of us, rejection, or even the fear of it; failure, or even the fear of it; fear itself, and the strong emotions it produces, can stop us from taking action - sometimes, any action. It leaves us rooted in pain, unhappiness, and wishing for more from our lives and ourselves. Alice said, ‘when she hears the word “no” it feels like she’s not good enough.’ And that is one of the most demoralizing feelings we can have.
Seth Godin suggests that we find it ‘easier to avoid the fear than it is to benefit from living with it.’ The advantages of living with fear, and growing with it, only come when you accept it, face it, even dance and sing with it. The benefits include a life fully lived, working on projects that mean the world to you, investments you might not have made otherwise.
Where are your fears? Are you willing to stop keeping track of what didn't work and instead look for new opportunities to express yourself, share your joy, or help another? There is risk in putting yourself out for all to see, but there is great benefit too.
Willing to share your fears?