One after another, the singers got up to audition.
"I'm not in full voice yet, because I've had a cold," says the first.
"I'm sorry I didn't have a chance to memorize it," apologizes the next.
Still, a third: "I'm not a morning person!"
What will the next person say? "The dog ate my music?"
Apologies, blaming, excuses, even lengthy explanations. These are all unbecoming. And completely unnecessary. Whether auditioning, handing in an assignment at school or work, or arriving late to lunch with a friend, it's time to stop.
I was first introduced to this concept by a former accompanist for our choir. She'd spent the day playing for auditions and entered our rehearsal room exclaiming, "Stop with the disclaimers already and just sing!"
Perhaps your introductory remarks are an appeal for empathy, an act of self-sabotage, or an explanation for why you aren't perfect. Perhaps they are simply nerves, making you run off at the mouth. Many of us talk too much when we're nervous.
This habit is a reflection of how we think about ourselves. We blame ourselves or assume we are wrong simply when we are living our life. We're deathly afraid of what others think. Or we've convinced ourselves of our unworthiness before we enter the public arena. We're terrified of being judged but we end up judging ourselves more harshly than anyone else ever would. We use a perfectionistic standard to beat ourselves up because we fall short. We apologize simply for being human.
Consider a different option.
In the example of auditioning or performance, stand up, take your position and simply do what you're there to do. Sing, act, dance, speak. No sheepish introduction or nervous giggle. No one needs (or wants) to know what happened in your life before that moment. Stand quietly. Breath deeply. And begin.
But how does this play out in our day to day interactions?
Certainly, in personal friendships, we care about each other's lives and support one another. There is a time and place for sharing background and perhaps for explanation, but avoid making it your norm. We all have that needy friend, don't we? The one who is always in need of encouragement and affirmation? No matter how beautiful and confident, she always seems to need your validation? It's exhausting!
In a healthy relationship, it's a mutual give and take. When you're strong, you help me. When I'm strong, I support you. Even if we're weak at the same time, we can hold each other and cry. And if we're both in strong mode, look out world!
I used to berate myself for knocking over my beverage. "I'm such a klutz. I spill all the time. I'm so sorry." Even when I was bumped and it wasn't my fault! A friend finally helped me realize everyone spills. This is a human trait. We all trip. Drop things. So now I just laugh, "Oops! My cup runneth over!"
When families label the one kid who does this more than others, that reputation shapes who they become. "Joey?" they'll tease, "Oh, he's the clumsy one." So Joey gets stuck with the label and carries it through life, apologizing or giving disclaimers. "No, I can't carry that vase for you, I'll drop it." Or Joey gets angry because in his heart, he knows. He's not the only one. Others have clumsy moments.
So when those moments come for you, big or small, in public or in personal friendships, lose the disclaimers. Enter with a smile, take a deep breath, and do what you're there to do.
The world will thank you.
* * * * *
For more on this concept:
What Happened When I Replaced "Sorry" with "Thank You"
Stop Giving Explanations
Photo by Abigail Keenan on Unsplash