I voiced my worst fear out loud to my director, “What if I get lost and flub up during the performance?”
She responded to my question with a question, “What’s the worst that could happen?” “I might die.” “You won’t die.”
But the fear of failure was real for me. I knew I had set up my solo show in a kind of loop. Many parts of it were like the other parts and so far I hadn’t managed to get through the whole thing without messing something up. And the performance was the next day.
As the time-continuum has a way of doing, the next day arrived. I was excited and dealing with my pre-performance stage fright quite well with a glass of wine and 42 neurotic applications of lip balm.
When I went out on stage, I was READY! And I rocked it! …until about half way through when one of the loops caught me and I was completely, utterly and painfully lost.
I realized it immediately and when I couldn’t retrieve a single word of my script, I said out loud, “Well, I guess my worst fear is happening. And I didn’t, in fact, die.” I looked out at the audience. I began to walk around the stage thinking my lost words might be found somewhere. My director gave me a cue, which only confirmed that I was doomed. Gone. My brain was frozen and the only thing to be done was to exit stage right. Intermission would have to start early.
I went backstage and contemplated sneaking out the back door and living with the folks out there in the alley; another option was to design myself a cute wrestling-type mask to wear for the rest of my life; and my final idea was to go back out and finish my show. Though option one and two were more appealing, I opted for the third. I knew I had to or I’d never stand in front of an audience again.
The ironic part is that the theme of my show was a vulnerable display of my insecurities and need for approval.
I went back out and picked up where I left off. Finished with no more mishaps. And everyone clapped and whistled and hollered. By the response, it would’ve seemed a success. But I was sure I had failed. Fuck up = do it wrong, forget your lines, leave the stage = epic failure. Right?
I thought so at the time. Yet every bit of feedback I got was about how present I was in that moment of forgetting. How I stayed with it to the point that many thought it was all part of the show (until I left the stage). How much they loved the ‘overcoming people pleasing’ message of my show and that it got a real life example thrown in. How brave and confident I was when I came back out for part two. And I felt great about going back out and finishing. So was it an epic fail?
It’s taken some time, but I’ve redefined what success means for me. I used to think that success equaled accomplishing the goal or task; having everyone think you’re amazing; making lots of money; doing things perfectly.
My new definition of success is having intention to live life with no attachment to the outcome, and being present with the process. Every piece of life offers opportunities for me to succeed.
In fact, failure only happens when I focus on my old definition (and then it’s really just my own created illusion of failure). Another perfectly good dichotomy turned upside-down!
What if you couldn’t fail? How would that change the way you approach life and the choices you make?