It’s a scary thing.
It torments you mercilessly, wrapping itself around your body and mind like a huge snake, distorting your judgement.
It can be omnipresent.
It is everywhere! It is present when you look in the mirror, when you wake up or go to sleep, when you eat, drink, go to work, study, watch TV, read a book etc. You get the drift. And boy does it glut! It feeds on you like a tasty meal – draining optimism and excitement as dry as a husk! You want to hide and shield your eyes from it but you can’t escape it! It can be the most negative and constant companion you’ll ever have the misfortune to meet.
When I was around twelve years old and my sister around seven, we were both supposed to play the piano at a recital at a Conservatoire. Now, I knew the piece confidently and could play it with my eyes closed. The date of the recital was a few weeks away but it hung over my head like a storm cloud which grew in intensity the closer I approached it. By the day of the recital I had worked myself into such a frenzy that I had a panic attack and couldn’t attend to play. My dad stayed with me whilst I was struggling to get my breathing under control, and my mum took my confident younger sister to play – she didn’t understand what the fuss was about and was only thinking about all the treats she would receive afterwards! I felt foolish and disappointed with myself for I had denied myself the opportunity to showcase my talent. I felt even more so when my sister triumphantly strode in the house to report back how marvellously she had performed and that although mummy had bought me a treat, I didn’t really deserve it because I hadn’t played like she had done!
I had successfully managed to psyche myself out.
I remember in my younger years watching Disney’s Peter Pan and staring at the screen in amazement when he loses his shadow. If only fear was as simple to shake off – that would be one shadow you would definitely want to lose!
But should you?
Fear isn’t always bad. In fact, it can be a product of growth and experiencing things outside of your comfort zone. Fear can be healthy. It can challenge you to cross many milestones. If you feel the fear and conquer it, then you are progressing very nicely! Ask yourself what it is exactly that you are scared about?
- Biting off more than you can chew?
- Doubting your capabilities?
- Messing up and having people judge you?
Fast forward around 8 months. Another recital was approaching and I was asked to take part. The most successful recitalists on the day would represent the Conservatoire in their promotional video. I was nervous but I decided to do it anyway – I had a point to prove to myself! The day came and I tried to relax as much as I could. Then Showtime! I made the short steps to the piano and sat down, placing my music on the piano stand. I began to play my first piece. Nerves fell away to elation …
my music started to slip down and down, covering my fingers for what felt like a lifetime. I couldn’t see them I was playing blindly. My mind was screaming at me with frustration and fear. Was this some sort of joke? Why wasn’t anyone HELPING me?! Then it fell lightly to the ground. The fear and confusion threatened to overwhelm me and my playing was being drowned out by the incessant chatter in my mind. Should I stop, pick it up, and start again (blowing my chances of representation) or purely rely on my memory and ability? After all, I had practised them hundreds of times without the scores and to a brilliant standard. Why should I doubt myself? I chose the latter and with sheer force managed to silence the chatter in my head. I continued relying on my muscle memory to see me through. Defeating my fear here gave me the confidence to play my second and third pieces without my music.
Stare into fear’s eyes, acknowledge how you feel and do the task anyway. It is the only way to progress. You’ll feel happier for it!