Recently I threw my husband a 50th birthday party and when it came time to sing Happy Birthday I was encouraged to say a few words. I laughed and said, “I’ll bet you never imagined growing up that the word “ukulele” would figure so prominently in your life!”
Then again, I never imagined that either, until three years ago when I picked it up for the first time. Now playing the ukulele has become an almost daily occurrence. I regularly go busking in Central Park as part of the duo Ukulicious and played at the Morgan Library last spring with my bluegrass group the Westside Irregulars (a paid gig!). And now I’m broadcasting “Your Guide to Love, Life, and the Ukulele” on Periscope, saying a few words on a theme of the day and singing a song for all the world to hear. (You can see some examples on this youtube playlist.)
At one time in my life, I wanted to be a singer and dancer like Madonna. Now, playing music is a way for me to create community and express myself joyfully. (And I love performing!) And yet, sometimes, playing on Periscope, I feel vulnerable in the face of judgment. People can be snarky, even hostile. I notice myself being more reluctant to share myself or stuttering as I watch the comments come in.
But what does that have to do with me? They’re just words on a screen. I read them, and make up my own story about them – about the person, or about myself. This is what we do as human beings. People open their mouths and sounds come out, we hear them and then we interpret them. “Uh-oh,” I think, “Am I not singing well enough? Are people bored? Do they not like this? How can I make it better?” instead of just saying, “Hey, if they want to listen, great, and if they don’t, that’s ok too. I’m doing the best I can in this moment. Who cares if they don’t like my singing? I’m still going to sing and have fun.”
Whatever it is you are working towards – living the good life, creating wealth, having a successful relationship, enjoying a fulfilling career – ask yourself, how often in life do you avoid expressing yourself joyfully because of your fear of other people’s judgment? Liz Wolfe is a breakthrough coach in New York City who has been helping people create a richer life for 20 years. Sign up for a free 30-minute breakthrough coaching session with her here.