Most of us don’t like to admit that we’re scared. Especially if we’ve been in the profession for a while. But we all have anxieties around performing, auditioning, public speaking, or interviewing. There’s a lot of secrecy about the fears many of us carry around week in and week out. Let’s come clean.
It’s easy to look at others and imagine they don’t experience fear—that they’re free from anxieties. That they were genetically endowed with all the confidence they need. (And we resent them for it!)
So we tell ourselves we lack confidence.
But what if confidence is NOT the holy grail we thought it was?
Welcome to . . .
The 4 C’s of Confidence
The veteran business coach Dan Sullivan has terrific insights on this topic. Dan explains that confidence is not what you have going IN to an ambitious project or performance. Instead, confidence is the outcome—it’s the result of a process Dan describes as the 4 C’s.
I’m excerpting below a portion of his blog post on confidence. Though it’s intended for entrepreneurs, you can easily substitute the “e-word” for “artist” or “musician” and it works just as well.
Dan Sullivan writes:
“As I’ve spent the better part of my life working with entrepreneurs, I’ve come to realize that, fundamentally, the only obstacle that can keep an entrepreneur from moving forward in any area of life is a lack of courage.
You don’t move forward because you don’t feel confident about achieving the result you’re looking for, but, in fact, the confidence doesn’t come until you’ve earned it by going through courage first.
This is the reality that most entrepreneurs face throughout their careers. In many cases, you have to take action despite not feeling certain, not feeling things are right, and certainly not feeling confident.”
Dan breaks confidence down into a process: he explains how the “4 C’s” work:
1. You commit to the challenge (the performance, audition, or public speaking engagement)
2. You have the courage to move forward, to prepare and perform in the face of the fear you experience. Expect the fear: it’s simply part of the package.
3. From this moving forward you develop the capabilities needed. Growth only comes from stepping into the arena itself. Practicing and planning won’t teach you what you’re capable of in performance. You need to get out there.
4. When you complete your challenge, you’re rewarded with confidence. You don’t start out with confidence. Confidence is the result of taking action, not a pre-requisite.
Does this mean that each performance and each presentation you care about is going to make you nervous? That you need to get used to the fear.
Feeling the fear and moving into it is what we need to develop an appetite for. So here’s:
The Tool for Courage
Phil Stutz and Barry Michels are the two LA shrinks who wrote the book The Tools. They treat many of Hollywood’s A-list performers and writers and they offer what are essentially “tools” for living. Specific actions that are interventions for the craziness we carry around in our heads. There’s a specific tool they teach for stepping into the middle of fear. Barry Michels says,
“To leverage fear into courage, you’re going to have to be honest with yourself every time you’re afraid. Most of us hide our fears, keeping them secret even from ourselves. . . You may be afraid to ask for a promotion, or confront someone about something he or she did that hurt you. If you don’t admit these fears to yourself, you can’t leverage them into courage. Look for the points in your life where you’re afraid, and see them as opportunities to learn to deal with fear.”
He goes on, “The tool that helps people deal with fear is called the Reversal of Desire. But to use the tool, you first have to let yourself be afraid—take the emotion and feel it, intensely, inside you.”
When You Face It and Move Through Your Fear, It Diminishes
Barry goes on, “Have you ever had one of those dreams where a dark, scary figure is chasing you? If you run away, it always gets much more terrifying. If you turn around and face it, something good almost always happens. It’s the same with fears in your waking life. That’s what the Reversal of Desire tool is designed to do. It’s called the Reversal of Desire because our normal desire is to run away from fear; the tool reverses that desire and gets you to face fear and move through it.”
Now for some of you, The Tools are going to be too “woo-woo” because these include visualizations and some screaming silently to yourself. That can seem a little “out there.” But for those of us with any level of performance anxiety, using the tools is a walk in the park compared to what we normally put ourselves through. I’d much rather use the tools regularly than be plagued by negative self-talk and the anxieties that are often running in the background as I prepare for anything stressful.
Here’s how Barry describes using the tool: “Take your feelings of fear and push them out in front of you in the form of a big, black cloud. Now that the feelings are separated from you, say to yourself: “I see how these feelings have held me back in many situations, not just this one, and I’m determined to move through them, instead of letting them stop me.” Then yell silently to yourself: ‘Bring it on!’ Move into the cloud. Once you’re in the middle of it, scream silently again: ‘I love fear’—meaning you are one with the fear, fully inside it. You can only let go of your fear after you’ve become one with it. Then the cloud spits you out, and you’ll find yourself soaring into a realm of pure light. Say to yourself: ‘Fear sets me free.'”
I know. It can seem nuts, but give it a try. Repeatedly. It’s a way to get yourself to take action—to feel the fear and move forward anyway. For more, see their website for more tools, articles, and access to videos.
How’s my own fear playing out?
July 1 marked the end of my first year of being on my own as coach and consultant—I left my day job at Manhattan School of Music June 30, 2016. So there’s been working on the book and being out on my own.
So to come clean on my own experience, I’m including this check-in report on how it’s been:
Huge learning curve in the past 12+ months? YUP.
Regularly dealing with self-doubt and stress? YEAH. I’M USING THE TOOLS.
Is it getting easier? NOT NOTICEABLY. THE FEAR CONTINUES BUT I KNOW TO EXPECT IT AND AM LEARNING HOW TO DANCE WITH IT.
Have you learned more in the past year and grown more than you ever thought possible? YESSSS!
Are you crazy enough to love the challenge? HELL YEAH!
Is dealing with the fear worth it: YES—YES—YES!
The most important lesson I’ve learned for managing fear is to move towards it. Take action. Think of fear as an indicator pointing you towards what will help you grow the most.
And I try to keep in mind that the regrets people have late in life are rarely about what they did and failed at. What people regret is what they didn’t do. What they were too afraid to do or try or be.
Don’t die with your dreams and projects still inside you.
Have a great week,
Dream Big, Plan Smart. Live Well!