I’m standing in line to sing at an audition, after making it past the dance cut. I’m going over my lyrics, lyrics I know like the back of my hand and seem to have suddenly forgotten, and then I hear them being sung back through the closed door.
The woman in the room singing for the director and casting team is singing my song.
Do I sing my song?
Do I switch to something else?
How long is she holding that note?
Does she sound better than I do?
And I just noticed the woman right in front of me is also a redhead, and my height.
How do I compete?
Taking a last swig of my water bottle before going into the room, I stare at my music, the binder heavy in my hand, and see the lines and notes all over the page.
Where am I?
And then I turn the handle and step into the room…..and sing horribly.
I’m learning a dance combination for a choreographer I absolutely adore. It’s for a production of South Pacific at a wonderful theatre and I’ve picked out a fun red-striped top, and pinned my red curls in playful arcs matching my red lipstick.
I’ve done this show before, and I look very period appropriate.
My focus is on the choreographer, who is breaking down not only the steps, but the story. She is very specific about what she is looking for, and I meet her eyes.
We are telling a story about falling in love, and she encourages us to be individual, and infuse our personality.
I feel open.
I dance from this place.
I get asked to sing.
Waiting in line I am excited to sing my 16 bars for her and the music director and casting director. This song is perfect for South Pacific. I hum through it and take a few sips of my water to keep my vocal cords hydrated.
I enter the room with a smile, inhale, and then begin with the simple question posed by composer Burton Lane:
Their answer? Yes.
How do you go from the first to the second?
What is the difference between these two experiences?
The lyrics, the song, even looking at hair color, I struggled with confidence and ultimately blew my opportunity at a job.
Comparison is a tricky beast. It comes in and robs you of your abilities and stacks you up against other people. Your focus goes completely external, taking you out of your body. Suddenly you are re-living past disappointments and fearing possible future scenarios. It can turn into a whole dialogue about your perceived lack of talent, the quality of your art, and produce blocked expression. And it can turn into an excuse for your situation.
Everything is outside yourself, and you feel helpless. You are completely cut off.
So, is this true?
There is an alternative to Comparison and the core difference between my line-up freak out, and my South Pacific calm.
I was prepared for the second audition, knew the material, and also spent time picking out an outfit that I felt good in. When I walked into the dance studio, I placed my attention on the choreographer, not on the other dancers. I was able to hear her say how important story was to the audition and deliver.
And, because I was in my body, I was able to connect to the feeling she was looking for, and translate that in my dance. When I went in to sing, I felt connected to the creative team, and sang to them. I didn’t question my lyrics, because my focus was on telling them the story.
So, what do you do when the beast arrives?
* Breathe. You are human. Nerves come because we care, and because as artists we put ourselves on the line. You aren’t doing anything wrong.
* Come back into your body and focus on your breath. Place a hand on your belly, or chest and actually take a moment to feel the ebb and flow. Change is constant, and just because you are feeling stuck in this moment, doesn’t mean it will always be.
* Connect back to your story. WHAT are you trying to communicate? What do you want to say?
* Connect back to your audience. WHO are you speaking to and WHY? This will get you out of worrying what others are doing, because they have no bearing on your performance. They have their own story to tell, and so do you.
* Reach out for help. Connect with those that inspire you, lift you, and offer tools so you can share your amazing gifts. You may find out the person you thought had it all together is actually struggling too. In sharing your challenges, you may help someone else. These relationships lead to community, collaboration, and pretty much knock isolation out the window.
Comparison actually distances you from everything around you, making the case you are alone. Most of all, it’s feeding the belief you are not enough.
And the truth is, you are enough.
When we connect to our rich and unique inner life, this is the place of power.
This is the place we connect to our audience and create wealth.