Last month, I got up on stage and performed a twenty-five minute cabaret set. I picked all the songs and wrote the monologues myself. It was the first time I had ever done something like that, but all the components were things I had done individually before. I’ve been singing for over a decade and have been writing stories for even longer. I was proud of my performance, even though I made a few mistakes. It was my first time doing that sort of thing, after all.
My performance was professionally filmed and I recently worked up the nerve to watch the recording. I didn’t like it. I stuttered a lot and my singing was much pitchier than I thought it was. My vocal tone was way worse than I realised and I made a lot of weird facial expressions that made the whole thing hard to watch. I had hoped to use some parts of the video if I ever put together an audition showreel, but that’s unlikely to happen now.
I hate watching videos of my performances. I am incapable of sitting back and enjoying my achievements. There’s always something new to nitpick, some minor imperfection to make me cringe.
I feel much the same way about my writing at least 50% of the time. At any given moment, it’s anyone’s guess whether I’m going to love what I’m writing or want to print it out specifically to burn it. It seems I am constantly swinging between the two extremes in any creative pursuit. I don’t have this issue quite as much with dancing, because I only started like two years ago and no one expects me to be amazing anyway. So in a way, having spent so much of my life singing and writing means I have piled expectations upon myself. I’ve been doing this so long. I should be good at it. Why am I not good at it?
Keeping the self-doubt at bay is an ongoing battle. I’m very much a brute-force kind of person when it comes to internalised adversity. That Sylvia Plath quote pretty much sums up my approach. It takes guts to fight it and keep going. I kick it in the face and force my way through until I feel less like shit. It’s relatively effective.
It was my first time tackling a twenty-five-minute self-devised performance. My voice rarely records well on video and I’m never going to have an accurate sense of what I actually sound like anyway. The audience loved it. They didn’t give a shit what my face was doing. I bounced off their energy and their remarks. We had fun together. So what if it wasn’t perfect? What are the odds of me needing a showreel when I don’t even have that vocal degree I want yet anyway?
My writing doesn’t have to be perfect right now. That’s what editing is for. I have all the time in the world to get things right. People love my concepts when I talk about them. I have days when I love everything that comes out of my brain. It’s okay to be shy about sharing my writing sometimes and it’s completely unrealistic to expect to make bread when I haven’t even finished growing the wheat yet.
I am naturally an insecure person, but I’m definitely not alone in that. Even in my manner of speech, I tend to soften my language and it can be very difficult for me to assert myself, depending on the company I’m keeping at the time. I walk a fine line in writing. Sometimes I can be assertive as all hell and scare people, but other times I can’t help but add little pieces of qualifying language, the maybes and I thinks and sometimeses. Is that even a word? It is now!
Fuck the doubt. It doesn’t even pay rent for the space it takes up in my head. I will keep writing and keep singing and keep fighting for what I want out of life. I am good at things. I don’t need to be the best. I just need to be me. That’s all any of us need to be.
How do you tackle self-doubt? Not only that, tell me something you’re proud of. Big or small. Let’s kick self-doubt in the face together.