I was at a fantasy role playing event (think your local Renaissance Fair, but smaller and with more elves), sitting around a camp fire and singing. During a lull, one of my friends turned to me and said “I remember when you first started coming here, and how shy you were about singing. But look at you now!” And it’s true – a few years ago I was very shy about singing in front of other people. Now it’s really no big deal (aside from the high I get off of it – that is a very big deal!). So I started wondering how this happened. How did both my attitude and behavior change so dramatically?
I starting going to events hosted by this group back in 2004, and their gatherings usually included singing. I love to sing, so I always joined in when on the choruses (along with most other people present). I would watch as some sang on their own, full of both admiration and bitter jealousy. I wanted to do that so badly, but believed it impossible. We have all had the experience of watching someone else do what we wish we could do (but believe we can not). It sucks.
Eventually I worked up the courage to sing a song on my own, in a small group. It was wonderful! People seemed to actually like it when I sang! I was over the moon! But then the group’s big yearly gathering occurred, and some people (the “real” singers and dancers and so on) got up in front of a large(ish) crowd of people and performed. And again, I was so jealous I felt nauseous. But of course I could never do something like that!
Except that of course, I could. Thus it was with something approaching terror that I signed up for an introductory voice class, so that I could do this properly. And over the course of a few months my confidence grew enough that I was able to stand up in front of a dining hall full of people and sing. It was amazing! And they seemed to enjoy it! I would say it was a dream come true, but I’m not sure I could have dreamed up something that delicious back then.
Fast forward a couple of years, and none of the regular singers are present to get things started and keep things going. Suddenly someone turns to me (me?) and asks me to sing “Wild Mountain Thyme,” one of the group favorites. And suddenly I am singing the song, and everyone is joining in on the chorus, and it comes to me – I’ve become one of the singers.
So now I sing regularly and confidently (usually). Honestly, most of the time I don’t even think about it. If there is singing going on, and I want to join in, I wait for a break and jump in with a song. So, how did I effect this radical change?
First, I had amazingly supportive friends. I would never in a million years have considered that it was possible for me to sing in front of other human beings if they hadn’t suggested it first. And then reminded me. Repeatedly. Benevolent nagging really can help!
Second, I got outside help. I took a class so that I would have a little bit more mastery, and thus a little bit more confidence. But you will note that I did not take years of classes – just a few months to give myself a boost.
Third, I sucked up my courage and took a risk. In reality it was a small risk (were my friends really going to boo me out of the fire circle? Unlikely.), but it did not feel like a small risk, that is the key. You want to push yourself outside your comfort zone, but not all the way into the “paralyzed by panic” zone! You want to find something in the growth zone.
Fourth, I took my time. This was at least a five year journey, from the first time I sang alone in front of eight or ten people until the day someone asked me to sing from out of the group songbook. I took a series of tiny, nearly invisible steps over a long period of time. Slow and steady really does get there in the end.
By now, perhaps you are wondering what this has to do with you (in which case, I thank you for reading all the way down to here!) To that, let me ask you this: where have you felt intense jealousy recently? Envy usually points us towards something we are meant to do, but believe is impossible for us, so I hope that you will take a moment to see where yours is directing you to grow. How could you bring a little bit of that (whatever you were jealous of, not the jealousy!) into your life? Good luck, and I hope that my experience can help you take at least a small step towards a buried dream!