Last time we looked at how words can affect small children, crushing their self-esteem and leaving them unable to join in with our singing culture for decades. It’s horrible. Don’t do it.
But there is a flip side, and one that I know all too well. The chances are good that you aren’t the person making the comments, but the person to whom the comments have been made. That one little comment haunts you, and has done so for decades. You want to sing – you desperately do – but you are frightened that you are going to make a fool of yourself and that someone is going to tell you to be quiet, shut up or that you can’t sing. And then you’ll feel like you are 7 again.
I get it. I really do. And so does every other community choir leader EVER.
It might help a little to understand that a lot of the people in any choir you decide to try out are dealing with similar issues. Family members will laugh and make fun of the fact that you are doing something creative. That is the hardest thing to cope with, I find, and the hardest thing to ignore, because the comments are made by people we love. However, it is important to understand that these comments are generally also made with no concept of the meaning behind them. I have never yet found a singer who has made these comments about another singer. The comments usually come from people who don’t sing. They will portray them as “poking fun” and be very resistant to understanding how hurtful they are.
So, if you get that comment from someone close to you about the fact that “you can’t sing” or some “funny” remark (you sound like a cat in heat, someone will call the police thinking a siren has gone off, etc. etc. ad nauseaum), the first thing you have to do is remember this mantra:
“They don’t sing. What the heck do they know anyway?”
Because really, they don’t know squat. Maybe you don’t sound like Katherine Jenkins or Pavarotti yet. That’s OK. They didn’t either, when they started. And maybe, just maybe, you’d rather sound like Billie Holliday or Ray Charles, instead. Because, hey – who wouldn’t?
There’s also another, slightly nastier undertone here. People make those sorts of comments because they want to stop you. To sabotage you. They don’t want you to succeed at something that they can’t do. It is hard to acknowledge, but often those comments are not made with love at their heart.
When you receive comments like this, the best thing is meet them head on:
“Actually, I think that’s kind of hurtful. I’m enjoying my singing, and I’m doing it for myself. What makes you think that it’s OK to make a comment like that?” I can guarantee that meeting a ‘joke-y’ hurtful comment with a response like that will shut it right down. Do it twice, and it is very unlikely that person will try again.
You don’t need external people trying to hold you back – you deserve to fly!