Is Being You More Powerful than Perfection?
I received an email in my inbox yesterday with the joyful opening line “There’s nothing worse than making an embarrassing mistake when you’re ‘on stage.’”
“Embarrassing” and “mistake” are some of the words that keep public speaking ranked as the number one fear in the world. Yet we all spend time in front of audiences, be it a small presentation at the office or a toast at a wedding.
What would it take for those moments to be easier, and dare I suggest, even joyful? How about giving up perfection as the goal you are shooting for?
A classically trained actress and singer, I bought the idea at a very young age that perfection was what would create success. Yet when I moved to New York I saw two kinds of high caliber performers on Broadway, and the effect they had on me in the audience were radically different. There were excellent performers who were nearing technical perfection and who I envied and admired. Then there were riveting performers who were somehow them in every role they approached and who I was inspired and moved by.
Some people call this the “it” factor claiming it cannot be taught or called upon. I call it the willingness to be you in front of others. And do you know what? Having now worked with thousands of people on stages around the world, I know that anyone can achieve it.
What is required is a willingness to let go of judgment of you, let down your barriers and learn to be present with the audience. That may be easier said then done but it is something you can learn. Once you start enjoying being in your own skin, it doesn’t matter if you forget a line, mess up the order of your slides, or say the wrong thing. You can actually bring the audience with you on the journey to wherever you are going.
The next time you find yourself in front of a group of people and feel yourself getting nervous or worrying about messing up, try this. Take a deep breath and say “hey, perfection is an interesting point of view.” Be kind to yourself. Ask a question. Laugh a bit. And notice the connection it creates.
What if there was nothing worse than not being you on stage?
And what if perfection were far overrated?