Applause. An auditorium full of people cheering me on. The din is deafening. And I begin my song. A hush falls over the room. The audience is mesmerized and is moving to the sound of the music. Minutes later, applause fills the room again. People are scrambling to get up from their seats to give me a standing ovation.
That is how I always imagined myself on stage. Regardless of whether I was performing or talking or dancing, that is how I wanted people to respond to my stage presence. Barring a few occasions though (i guess a couple), I never felt satisfied with what I had accomplished during the performance. The days that I did get a standing ovation, I floated on a cloud for weeks afterward. The days that I didn’t, whether in class participating in a lecture discussion or delivering a presentation or singing, I felt worse than the most downtrodden person in a slum. I wouldn’t have the courage to even look up at the world; not when I felt people were whispering behind my back about what I lacked- that star quality.
The story doesn’t end there. If the self-deprecation was restricted to only three or four times when I ascended the stage, it would still be manageable after all. Sadly though, in the deep recesses of my mind, I ascended the stage whenever I shared my opinion to anyone. And anyone literally meant anyone. From the professors in classes, friends, people who could give me a job to my own parents.In fact, through most of my life I was convinced that my father thought I was an idiot. So I was literally exposing myself to intense scrutiny each time I opened my mouth. Oh and I forgot- not just open my mouth, but also walk, move and the rest.
I once confided this utter feeling of failure and insignificance brought on by excessive self expectation to a friend. I expected sympathy for the sorry state I worked myself into, but what I got instead was probably the sternest talking to I’ve ever got from anyone except my own mother. This incident did not change my life in a single day. But I did understand where I was going wrong. Over years of telling myself that I did not need to justify myself to anybody. More important perhaps was the realization that nobody cared about me more than myself. And that means if I perform on stage (or really anytime in life) I now just take a deep breath and get a move on.