I saw an advert for a singing competition today. Not too long ago – maybe a year or so back – I would have jumped right at the opportunity to join. But I didn’t feel a thing when I saw it today. I didn’t have any urge to perform either, when I saw the invitation to perform for Collegiate Dinner. Neither did I feel any need to go for an audition that a minor record label had invited me to. But when Cheese asked me to perform at her wedding, I felt so, so happy that she asked me to.
And so I wonder, what changed? Initially I thought I was just tired of performing. Tired of putting up an act for the world, because that’s what you do when you perform. All that junk about being true to yourself when you perform – it’s quite a lot of rot; when you’re on stage freaking out with hundreds of people staring at you, you don’t project you (“you” is cowering somewhere in the region of your toes), you project a construct of you. I thought I was really tired of that.
But then, that didn’t explain why I felt happy about singing at Cheese’s wedding. One performance is very much like another. When my cousin asked me to sing at her wedding many years ago, I did exactly the same sort of prep as for less meaningful singing gigs – even though, if I remember correctly, I chickened out of singing in the end because there was no need to. (Hey, I was only 14 then!!)
So, what changed?
I’ve come to realise that it’s more than just image fatigue. It has to do with why I performed. I used to perform for acceptance. I needed the social validation badly. I wanted people to come up to me and say, you sing well, you’re awesome. And not just with respect to singing – I needed validation in everything. I used to get really upset when someone posted a negative comment on my Youtube channel, and the singing competition mania was probably just an extreme manifestation of this obsession. But now I find that I don’t need that any more. I still need social validation – everyone does, to a certain degree – but not as much as before. Did it have to do with losing weight? Maybe. Curing my buckteeth? Maybe. Becoming fitter? Maybe.
But most important of all, I think, in helping me realise that I didn’t need to be socially validated by the world at large were my dear friends. I came to realise that eventually, at the end of the day, you don’t need everyone to understand or accept you. What I really wanted was to be understood and accepted by those who meant the most to me, and they do, despite all my ridiculous quirks and idiosyncrasies.
It’s very easy to dismiss these ruminations as mere foolishness, but I think these thoughts would cross the mind of anyone whose primary source of confidence is external, as mine used to be – and still is, to a certain extent.
I still upload videos onto Youtube occasionally. I still love to sing. But the difference is, I do it for no other purpose than for the pure love of doing it, and especially, doing it for the people I love. I no longer care if I don’t sound 100% perfect, I don’t care if some people don’t like what I do, and I don’t need people telling me what a good performance that was for me to think a performance was good. Which explains the complete lack of depression that usually follows a performance as off key as the impromptu one I did at Collegiate. Haha. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to strive for perfection – the audience for whom I do this has simply changed. Praise is sweet, but a lack of it no longer deals a blow to my confidence.
Why do you do what you do, indeed?