Do you set yourself up to fail?

1 Mar

“I am so sorry about that, it was awful. I need a stiff drink.”

Those were the words of a rather distressed musician who felt that her performance playing the flute had been very poor.

Where was she playing?

At an audition?

Taking the centre stage at the Albert Hall with exacting critics?

No, in an informal gathering, mainly of other amateur musicians she knew and a sprinkling of their friends, at an occasion set up to be a; “jolly, let’s see how we are getting on playing and eat cake,” afternoon.

So sad.

In the morning, she had had a practise with her fellow flute player and looked strained and agitated.  She said she had taken a sleeping pill so that she could sleep better the night before.

It was very difficult driving with her to the house where they were playing, because she was clearly working herself up to fail.

“I feel so nervous, we could play it much better yesterday, I just hope I don’t completely mess it up.”

No amount of gentle coaxing from me to treat it as something to enjoy, prevailed. There was nothing resting on this, except a chance to work towards something, to give a focus to her learning the flute, and have fun.

And all that was lost in this quivering person.

Feeling nervous in this situation is natural, I am not denying that, and often one can feel more nervous in front of people you know.

However, being consumed by it seemed like a bad choice.

And in the context of a warm, non-judgemental afternoon seemed to be verging on the self-indulgent.

I was at that musical afternoon to watch and support my husband, and it was delightful. There were lots of wrong notes and re-starts, and also passages of joyous music played by people who had come to pick up an instrument late in life and had a great love of music. In all, I felt privileged to be there.

Her performance wasn’t appalling, she just was struggling to give herself up to playing the music, rather than being self-conscious of herself playing.

I work with people all the time helping them to win through the natural nervous energy that arises when you are going to perform, to learn to use it to light you up, rather than close you down.

To enable you to be self-aware, but not self-conscious.

After all, you are the vessel for the words and music, not them themselves. It is the tune and the message that you need to concentrate on, not your negative feelings.

Start by regulating your breathing, and then take control of your mindset.

Which we can do. Neuroscience tells us that we can be in charge of our mind and thoughts and that our mind or thoughts do not need to be in charge of us (unless you are suffering from serious mental disorder such as Schizophrenia).

I don’t say ‘deny your fear’. Your brain is only trying to help you to warn that there is the unknown ahead. Acknowledge it and then set it aside to get yourself in the best frame of mind to make the most of the situation, and even relish it.

Be gentle with yourself, after all, your brain is only trying to warn you that this is unknown territory and could be dangerous. You need to simply point out that in this case you are going ahead and want to find the fun and the excitement in it.

In fact, allow yourself to find the fun and excitement in it. 

There is such a thing as trying too hard when you don’t need to.

The same adrenaline is created whether you are scared as well as excited remember, so in a very real way, you can choose how to experience it without any major chemical shifts in your body.

I love the lyrics of this song by Kathy Mattea:

You’ve got to sing like you don’t need the money –

Love like you’ll never get hurt-

You’ve got to dance like nobody’s watching-

It’s got to come from the heart if you want it to work.

Take that leap of faith – toot your flute with abandon, dare to speak your truth, and live the life you want.

If you would like to find out more about my coaching and training services, to learn the skills to be able to live the life you want, contact me via email to Fiona Whytehead, or book a discovery call.

Fiona Whytehead
By Fiona Whytehead

Founder and Director, Locus Coaching

Share this blog post:


Leave a comment

Required fields are marked *. Your email address will not be published.

Fiona Whytehead
By Fiona Whytehead

Founder and Director, Locus Coaching

Share this blog post:

If you want to liberate and enjoy your voice, be in control when speaking, and make successful connections…

Get in touch with me, Fiona Whytehead for details about what Locus Coaching can do for you