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“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
― Brené Brown
“My Choral Director Told Me to Mouth the Words”
Most people I meet have a singing story. This one was my mother’s: She was in the 4th grade, happily singing away, relaxed and feeling like part of things, when the director of her school chorus told her that she shouldn’t sing but instead “just mouth the words.” She repeated this story periodically, and not in spirit of what a bad teacher this was, but rather, “See? I must be a real hopeless case!”
“Either You Have it or You Don’t.” … False, False, FALSE!!!
I find that many people who have given up on themselves as singers, are not at peace with this verdict. On a deep level they still secretly hold on to the wish that they could sing. Unfortunately, when they stopped singing, they stopped getting all the practice and experience that people who do sing are continuing to get. As with any skill, the more you do it the more accessible it is. The less you do it, the less accessible.
The remedy for all this begins with embracing and trusting the idea that with singing, it’s never an “either you have it or you don’t” situation. We all have it — yes, even you! Some just have more of it, or have easier access to it.
Get a New Twist on YOUR Singing Story
By revisiting your singing story, and looking at it from a new perspective, you can start to change everything for yourself about singing.
The following exercise will help you to put your own story into perspective, a critical step in overcoming your fears. Try to approach these questions with an open mind and with an attitude of kindness towards yourself.
Considering (And Writing About) Your Singing Story
Think back on your own story. How did you get the idea that you can’t sing, or that you’re a bad singer? Or, even if you can sing, that you have reason to fear singing out where other people can hear you? As you reflect, try to identify specific experiences that discouraged you or that you interpreted as a reason to hold back.
If you don’t remember anything specific, just reflect generally. Spend a little while writing down any thoughts or feelings about singing that you remember having in the past, along with the feelings that are brought up for you now, as you are writing. Take your time with this, as your insights may not all come right away.
Becoming Your Own Singing Superhero
Read over what you wrote in STEP 1, and consider what you’d say to support a friend if they told you a story like yours. Write a letter to yourself as if you were encouraging your friend, using the specifics of your own situation. Be comforting and supportive. Remember, this is something important to them — they want to learn to sing — so as a good friend you want to help them to step out and give it a try!
Depending on their (your) situation, here are some thoughts you could share with your “friend”:
- Singing is not an “either you have it or you don’t” kind of thing — it can be learned.
- Maybe their teacher was mean, or constipated, or in the middle of a divorce.
- Just because they don’t have the big talent for singing that their sister had doesn’t mean that they suck, or can’t learn.
- They don’t have to sing on Broadway! It’s not about being perfect — it’s about having fun!
Then send the letter to yourself — actually put it in the mail. When it arrives in the mail and you read it, allow yourself to absorb the messages. They are from your best friend and singing super-hero!
Once you’ve opened your mind the new reality — that it is, after all, possible for you to learn to sing, take another step. Find a singing teacher, ask a friend to help you, or contact me! You will have so much fun!
This article is an excerpt from my new book, The Fear of Singing Breakthrough Program: Learn to Sing Even if You Think You Can’t Carry a Tune.