In January, I convinced myself to take a singing class. Something I thought I’d never do… again. If you knew me back in high school this would seem weird because, I used to sing all the time. I was in the choir, every musical, I took voice classes, I was even in a girl band. Singing was a HUGE part of my life. I loved it. But singing for me always came at a price. A group of girls bullied me in high school. They would make fun of my performances, saying how I wasn’t deserving of roles I would be cast in. They would gossip that I was ‘off pitch’ in choir. They even spread rumors throughout the whole theater department that I was anorexic. They made me feel insecure, and un-talented. Through these experiences I started to believe that my peers were against me, and I became painfully afraid that any sort of mistake would be harshly criticized, and therefore I decided not to sing in front of anyone ever again. Until this year…
First day of my new Wednesday singing class I walk in with my sheet music, and there are about 12 people sat in the room. We do a vocal warm up, and then each of us must stand up alone next to the piano and perform a song for the class. I’m shaking. I’m waiting for the whispers, the cattiness, the mean eye rolls. But guess what? The exact opposite happened… Everyone supported each other! Everyone cheered even when someone wasn’t that great (me, for example). It was the most non-pressure environment I had ever performed in, and because of this positive energy everyone got better each week. On break we all gave each other compliments, pushing each other. The courage I saw in that room inspired me. It also showed me that something incredible happens when we as human beings invest in each others growth.
I wanted one of the class members, Kim (who had recently moved from China), to kill it. She was learning, “Someone to watch over me,” and she would explain to me at every break, “I’m just here to get better at my English.”
I wanted John, (a 55 year old plumber who took the class because his fiancée loved karaoke more than anything), to find the perfect song to sing at their karaoke wedding rehearsal dinner in 3 months.
And lastly, the insanely talented Katie, (an English teacher who after a long day teaching came to class each Wednesday and sung her heart out), because singing once a week made her happy. It was her smiling face each class that gave me confidence again. “Rachel, that was amazing.” She would whisper to me as I would bashfully walk back to my chair.
My Wednesday singing class changed my story from, “my peers are against me,” to “my peers are rooting for me.” That shifted me from obsessing over being perfect, to now being willing to take risks without fear of ridicule. Imagine if all of life felt that way.
As people, we have the choice to lift each other up, or bring each other down. To be gossip spreaders, or light givers. It’s our choice. I bet none of those girls in high school know how deeply they affected me.
So I pose these questions…. What If we judged each other less? Do we then, in turn, judge ourselves less? What if we compare our lives to others less? Do we then start living our own lives more fully? I believe yes.
And lastly, to John singing “Rubber Ducky” at a karaoke bar somewhere in Brooklyn next month. Thank you. Love wins.
Ps. If you want to release the beliefs that hold you back from a better life I highly recommend, Gabrielle Bernsteins new book, “Judgment Detox” it rocks.