It’s Not Your Job to Judge Yourself

I was in the audience at vocal master class one day in college when a young singer nearly broke down in tears over her less-than-sensational rendition of a challenging aria.

It wasn’t that she was a bad singer because she wasn’t at all. She had a lovely voice. It’s just that a master class is such an intimidating event, with a lofty famous opera singer critiquing you in front of your peers, that anybody can feel anxious and exposed.

At our tender age none of us had been in a such a high-pressure performing situation as the master class before.

The renowned soprano who had been sharing feedback with the young singer paused in her remarks. “Now, now,” she said. “Don’t worry. You’re going to sing your aria again.”

The young singer nodded, downcast.

“These are steps we go through in our development as singer,” the master class teacher said. “I hope there is something valuable for you in my coaching today.”

“Yes, there is,” said the student performer.  “It’s just that I never sound like this — I’m not in my voice today. That’s not how I sing this song. I feel so embarrassed.”

“Let me coach you,” said the famous singer. “I will listen. Don’t listen to yourself. You can’t be in your voice if you stand outside yourself and judge your performance. Just sing. Don’t judge yourself.”

The young woman sang again and the room said a collective, quiet “Aah!”

Her sound was completely different. The young singer relaxed. Her face was calm and radiant.

Her song was dramatically improved the second time.

“That felt better,” she said afterward.

“You were a singer that time,” said the teacher.

It is not our job to judge ourselves. It can be very hard to stop.

Sometimes old tapes in our heads tell us that we should be smarter, faster, stronger, fitter, wealthier or cooler than we are.

It’s hard not to compare yourself to other people. It’s hard not to wonder whether you’re accomplishing as much as you should be.

Then again, we are adults. We are out of school, and making our way through real life. There is no one to grade us. There is no one to judge us, as long as we don’t judge ourselves.

Exercise:

Think about a time recently where you judged yourself or someone else harshly. Try to pinpoint the moment when you slipped into judgment. (It happens to everyone!) 

Looking back at that incident, what is a more charitable, compassionate view (of you or whomever you slipped into judging) than the critical, judgmental view?

Example:

Anush tends to judge herself for her spending. She makes a budget and knows it’s pretty unrealistically tight but she tries to stick to it. If Anush goes over her budget which happens fairly often, she feels terrible. She says, “For Peter’s sake Anush, you’re so bad with money!” 

What is a more charitable view of Anush’s situation? Leave a comment!

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