A few months ago I took a course called Life Skills through Aware, an organization that serves people suffering from mild to moderate depression (I highly recommend it! It’s free and you get free books :D). One of the six sessions I attended focused on low self-esteem and confidence, on the thought, “I’m not good enough,” and how to modify that thinking to, “I’m alright, really.” One of the tips our class learned to help boost confidence was to act confident in order to become confident. This means to talk clearly, stand up tall, etc.
I think in general I’m a pretty confident person. I know I can do things and I have no trouble demonstrating that I can do a variety of things. One place that I’m awful at being confident, however, is at the bar. I’m just far too wary of the characters I might meet at a bar and so close myself off from those around me in order to stay safe. Well, a certain degree of wariness is fine at the bar, methinks, just because you never do know who you’re going to meet, but the aura around me gets so strong that I begin feeling stingy and self-conscious, and that is enough to drive any potential nice people away, in addition to the creepers.
Today, though, something happened. I was walking home through Temple Bar from a friend’s birthday dinner and I happened to pass a bar where I saw a guy I know playing a gig. Naturally, I decided to stop in and listen for a bit. Pushing myself to the front, I stopped in between some guys so I could see. Now, I don’t quite know how it happened, but I suddenly began talking to the guy standing next to me; I think I probably starting singing to whatever song was playing and this guy was doing the same so we started singing together. But regardless how the conversation started, the point is that THIS NEVER HAPPENS! I NEVER TALK TO MEN IN BARS (especially if I’m by myself). But here I was chatting away to this guy who turned out to be quite a nice chap. We probably chatted for about five minutes and then he was off, so we shook hands, and that was that.
Now, I’d say this was just a fluke, an anomaly, if you will, but then… it happened again! With some other guys that were then standing next to me! I’m sure this time we were all just dancing around and singing along to the music, and once I open my mouth the question always comes, “Where are you from,” and onward we go from there. But again, I WAS TALKING TO MEN IN THE BAR! And again, it was fine! The one guy, when I was about to leave, even gave me a tiny peck on the cheek as he shook my hand (which I did not get creeped out by). And THEN while I was talking to the guy playing the gig, ANOTHER GUY, an older gentleman, started talking to me and I ANSWERED! Now, in this case, it was a group of older couples, but still! I WAS TALKING TO PEOPLE IN A BAR! ALL BY MYSELF (sidebar, I apologize for all the capital letters, but seriously, this never happens; just ask any of my friends who know my death glare all too well).
So, what changed? Why was I suddenly okay to talk to people in the bar, a place where I avoided making any contact with people if I could help it? This is where Shakespeare’s famous line from As You Like It comes in: “All the world’s a stage,/And all the men and women merely players.” Now, the speech has to do with one’s various stages of life, but the line, “And one man in his time plays many parts,” fits really well with what I’m talking about here (if I use it literally). For the past couple weeks I’ve been quite serious about busking because I realized that my funds are a bit on the low end, therefore I need as much help as I can get. So, for the past couple weeks, I’ve been going out at least three or four times during the work week to make grocery money.
What I’ve realized while busking is that, though it’s a bit awkward to begin, once you get going, as long as you look people in the eye and have a lot of fun, people are going to at the very least look back at you. Sometimes they’ll stop and listen, and maybe (just maybe) toss in a euro or two. You have to play the part of busker. You have to play the part that screams, “Look at what I can do! You should give me money!” (as crude as that sounds) otherwise people won’t give a flying fart what you’re doing. The more confident you look in your craziness (at least, that’s how I perceive what I’ve been doing), the better you’re going to do (praying doesn’t hurt either, by the way). And though it was hard to begin with, I feel I’ve been getting better at connecting with people while I’m playing on the street. People now stop to chat with me every once in a while and I find myself chatting easily with them.
It is because I started playing this part of busker that I believe I was able to talk to the people around me at the bar; I’d just gotten used to people looking at me and looking back at them and suddenly I wasn’t afraid anymore. The part I used to play at the bar, ‘Stingy, wary girl’ had begun melting away, transforming into, ‘Easygoing, friendly girl’. In this new role, it was easy to talk to people at the bar. That’s when the lesson I learned in Life Skills about acting confident all those months ago clicked. I just need to be okay with seeing those around me and being seen. Wow.
So, moral of the story: just start performing because life is your stage. The better you perform, the bigger the standing ovation will be during your curtain call.
Peace and happy performing!
P.s. When the heck did it decide to get so cold here? Broke out my ‘winter’ jacket and scarf!