As I walked down the hall with one of my students, she excitedly told me that her audition went well and she made the school’s show choir.
Me – “Awesome! Well, clearly the judges enjoyed your audition, but I want to know – how did you feel about your audition?”
Her – “Oh. Awesome. I know I’m good.”
If you couldn’t already tell, she is one of those that walks in as if she owns the place. She also told me that day that I look like someone that would have cats and likes to read…that I had a cute outfit on…and asked why don’t I direct choirs like the other music teachers cause “you are like really good”. Well thanks sweetheart
I teach private voice lessons to middle school students through the school system. I love working with 7th and 8th graders. Their personalities are all so different. Some walk into the practice room and move about as if they are already stars on broadway, while others awkwardly giggle and squirm when I say, “When you sing, stand like a queen”. And just about all of them get easily distracted by the mirror on the wall – gotta fix that hair – for real though…some really do need to fix that hair or shave those pits.
I recently asked a new voice student of mine (we’ll call her Amanda which means worthy of love) why she wanted to sign up for voice lessons. She said, “I want to get better at singing. And I also want to prove to my dad that I can be good at something”. Whoa. My heart sank for her when I heard that.
Doubt. Insecurity. Feeling like ‘I’m not good enough’ – These feelings and thoughts creep into our minds for many reasons and all tend to be seasoned with fear. Fear of failure. Fear of embarrassment. Fear of rejection. Fear of not being enough. Fear of being unworthy. It sounds like this young girl’s dad has already sown a belief into her mind of not measuring up in his eyes…
I have been there in that place of doubt and insecurity. Often times, that doubt or insecurity creeps in because I begin comparing myself to someone. Theodore Roosevelt said that “Comparison is the thief of joy”. So true. And I’d say that comparison is the thief of freedom too. Comparison either chains you to envy or pride.
Someone’s grass is greener. It is lush and beautiful and your grass simply isn’t. In this case, the comparison trap can leave you unsatisfied, envious, insecure…so you are left in a place of striving to make your grass greener, and possibly left with a belief that because your grass is brown, your value as a person is also poop colored, and who wants that?
Sweet Amanda was preparing for her school’s show choir auditions recently. I asked her if she had sang her solo for anyone in her family. She said she sang for her dad. I asked her what his response was. “He just put earphones in and chuckled.” What?! Then at the next lesson lesson, Amanda told me that she didn’t make the show choir. I sympathized with her and then told her I was very proud of her for stepping up and auditioning – that’s a big deal. She told me that she felt really stressed out and nervous before her audition because they were running late and her dad kept picking on her about even trying out for the show choir.
So here this precious girl stands, waiting for her father to support her, to admonish her, to believe in her and all he has filled her with is doubt, insecurity, and a belief that she just isn’t good enough and now she feels she needs to prove herself to him. She is saying, ‘Daddy, please affirm me” and he is putting earphones on.
Quick side story – I started playing on a city youth basketball team in 6th grade (no try-outs necessary, anyone welcome) and I was TERRIBLE. Even so, my dad came to every game and cheered me on proudly. He was really good at basketball and we all knew I really sucked (I was pretty self aware of that fact). I literally made ONE basket that whole season, and it was a free throw. Yet, I never questioned if he was proud of me. My performance wasn’t what mattered. Luckily, a little ways into 7th grade, I had gotten better and was even playing first string on the school’s basketball team. I even received “Most Improved Player” award that year. You would think I would have kept going with my budding basketball career, but I promptly quit in 8th grade because I didn’t like to sweat and hated wearing my hair in a ponytail. Yes, I was a bit petty. Case in point – my father affirmed me even in the embarrassing phases of my budding sports stardom….where is Amanda’s affirmation?
“What you say can preserve life or destroy it” (Proverbs 18:21). “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose” (MSG).
I asked Amanda a few more questions about her family. She seemed open, but a little shy as she responded. I then told her that she is enough, just as she is. I told her that she can be free – free to sing and learn and grow simply cause she loves music, rather than feeling like she needs to prove herself to her father. I encouraged her to be free of such striving; free of impressing her dad, free of impressing me, simply free. She said her dad is hard on her about a lot of things. I told her that while I didn’t know her dad personally that I believe he loves her deeply, yet despite how much he loves her, that doesn’t mean he always knows how to love her well. I told her that parents are people just like her and they make mistakes. And that it is ok to be upset when her father makes mistakes. I told her that I believe we all have a Father in a kingdom above that loves us more deeply than we can even comprehend, and that when others let me down or hurt me, my Father above is there for me.
She listened. She sometimes looked down, letting her hair drift over her face, and I sensed she was maybe hiding tears. I told her I was excited to get to know her more and work with her this year.
I pray that she will absorb the belief that she is enough. I plan to communicate that to her and my other students in various ways this year. Their value will never be connected to how well they are doing in their lessons, but will be admonished simply because they are God’s creation – fearfully and wonderfully made. He is the artist, therefore He has the say when it comes to our value. And as the Psalmist wrote, “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.” Psalm139:14. Their worth is not equivalent to their performance. Their identity is not defined by what others say. Every brush stroke of a painting is inherently valuable and needed for the masterpiece to be complete. We are each a brush stroke, purposely placed. Whether a dot, a smudge, a line, a squiggle, or a smear – we all are placed on the canvas by the artist intentionally.
I hung some words on the practice room wall where we have our lessons each week that say, “This is the safest place to make mistakes, so go for it” because I want these students to know that their is no value judgement in that space from me towards them. There is full acceptance of them as they come and when they mess up, I’ll help them.
And it’ll be fun.
The Father of Lights will never put earphones on dear daughter. He always wants to hear you sing.
So, sweet Amanda, be free – cause you are enough.