From our earliest school years, we’re subjected to criticism, whether it’s from our teachers giving us ‘feedback’, or our peers giving us their unsolicited impressions of how we look or act. Let’s face it, we too stood in judgement of our fellow classmates. We even got criticized by our parents who were just trying to help us avoid criticism in the big wide world. Often the judgement was to help us improve and sometimes it was to put us in our place.
For every action you take you could easily find a critic to muscle in with an opinion. Society judges us for the way we look, what we have, how we behave, and what we do. You would think we were all accustomed to it by now and immune to at least some of it. However, even when you ask for criticism it can be really hard to take it. Sometimes it doesn’t seem to even depend on the expertise of who is giving it. How crazy is that? Perhaps we should be asking ourselves, is the criticism coming from someone you respect? Are they an expert? Do they have an agenda of their own? What value should you give to it and what value can you get from it?
The Audience – Critic
As performers we leave ourselves open to criticism every time we perform. We’re inviting the audience to relate to us and with or without them knowing it, they’re going to put on their critic’s hat and give us a score.
When I started competing in festivals as a kid, I was nervous and couldn’t help making comparisons between myself and the other competitors. Were they better than me? Did they make more mistakes than me? My judgement of them was in fact all about me. Even later, and many competitions down the road, I discovered that it was whatever the competition judge was looking for and what they liked. My only responsibility was to be the best that I could be.
That’s the key, be the best you can be in that moment and time. Decide how you want to show up and what you’re bringing of your self to it. As performers, it’s our job to tell a story or communicate a feeling and it’s up to the audience to decide for themselves whether they are ready to receive it. Let’s face it, they’ve usually planned to be there, so they’re ready for it. Interestingly, violinist Joshua Bell did a bit of busking in the New York City Underground while selling out at Carnegie Hall and very few passersby stopped to listen. What does that tell you?
As Julie Andrews once said: “I’ve learned a lot of things about myself through singing. I used to have a certain dislike of the audience, not as individual people, but as a giant body who was judging me. Of course, it wasn`t really them judging me. It was me judging me. Once I got past that fear, it freed me up, not just when I was performing but in other parts of my life.”
I’ve got to say I echo her sentiments. Once you stop judging yourself you unlock some pretty interesting doors. Interested? Get in touch.