Slippery words…

Yesterday we had a talent show competition at work. Employees could perform for up to 3 minutes and do comedy, a magic show, or sing, or whichever talent they thought they had. The regional winners are up for a nice treat: they will fly to the company headquarters in Plano for the final.

Much like the shows you can watch on TV, we had 3 judges. One of those judges was me. I’m perfect for that role, since I’m very judgmental, so there you go, I had carte blanche by my company to look at people and judge. How awesome!

Of course, what I had failed to realise is that the judges judge out loud in these contests so, well, there’s a need to voice opinions in front of an audience, and being funny or interesting is a bonus. Damn.

As it turns out (I know it, you know it…) my ability to be fun in front of an audience is non-existent. Bear in mind that I was sitting with my back to the audience and only the contestants were in front of me. Bear also in mind that people weren’t judging me (or no more than usual, anyway), and I wasn’t alone in my task, there was a male judge on each side.

The guys were funny, the other judges, I mean. I couldn’t speak. I just felt terribly stupid. Of course, you don’t want to be mean to these people because after all, not only they’re your colleagues, but some of them are even your friends. In any case, the quality was good, so you couldn’t really criticise much. Also, I think everyone expected the other two guys to be funny and joke about the performances, but I’m still not sure what was expected of me.

Result? I only managed to mutter a few words after each performance, mostly containing the words “yeah, it was good/nice/cool” and “I liked it.” Talk about stage presence!

It got me thinking… When I tell people I’m shy, the first reaction I get is “no, you’re not.”

I can understand why someone who doesn’t know me at all might think that. I’m making a conscious effort to not appear as shy to the general public. The truth is, however, I am a shy person.

So, the questions that came to my mind after this experience were:

Why is it so difficult to speak or be yourself in certain situations?

Why is the power of an audience so strong and why some people have a much harder time expressing themselves in public?

Of course, in my personal case, it all stems from insecurity, rejection and other similar subjects that I’m not going to describe in detail. You might be wondering why I volunteered to do it if I have a tough time, and you’re right to do so. The decision to do it has its reason in a personality trait as well… Here’s why:

I don’t like being on the spotlight, and will do anything to avoid it. However, whenever I’m in a group of people where nobody seems to take responsibility for making a decision, or when the group is going to be in some sort of trouble because nobody is stepping up; then I feel the need to fill that gap. We asked people to be the third judge but either they weren’t interested or were already going to participate as contestants, so after trying to get someone else and failing, I said I didn’t mind doing it.

I’ve always been like that, whenever nobody wanted to be the leader of the group, I sacrificed myself for the greater good. Even when the group decided to split because of a disruptive member, I’ve volunteered myself to be in the disruptive member’s team (and also set a few things straight, while I was at it). I hate it, but I’ll do it (possibly due to a false sense of being needed? Who knows?)

So there I was, sitting at a table, facing a contestant whose feelings I didn’t want to hurt and thinking “what am I doing here?” Still, I did it. I hadn’t been so nervous in a long time (OK, that’s sort of a lie, I can think of many other situations lately in which I’ve been as nervous… what is wrong with me?)

I realise that I can talk to strangers in the shops, transport… As long as they’re not cute guys, that is! However, when I have a feeling I have something to gain or lose, I freeze, which in turn, makes me always lose by default.

I also tend to be self-conscious, mainly because I’m accident prone. I’m always hitting myself on doors and tables, tripping over (rarely falling though), almost poking my eyes out with sharp stuff… So I think that makes me try to keep an even lower profile. I’m basically scared of making a fool of myself, which in turn, makes me behave like a fool to hide my clumsiness and have some sense of control over the situation. I get red, redder than a tomato. And I feel the heat rushing up the back of my neck whenever I am put on the spotlight, be it in front of an audience, or in front of a cute guy.

People have this idea of me being a daredevil, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Some go as far as to tell me I look like I enjoy karaoke, or even asking me to join this talent show competition as a singer. Me? Sing? Sure, in the shower, and not much, just in case someone can hear me.

One of my goals this year was to be less shy and more brave in these situations. So far, I’m not achieving this. I keep thinking it’s only October, but damn, I’m feeling the time pressure here.

I would love to just walk up to a makeshift stage and deliver a comedy act, or even introduce a performer to the audience. I would love to be able to deliver a presentation on a subject without wondering what people are thinking, whether I sound like an idiot or if someone will ask just that only question I don’t have an answer for. On even another note, I would love to have skin thick enough to ask guys out, to walk up to them and ask them if they fancy going for a drink, and even thicker to accept a “no” as an answer.

For this competition, I was talking to different people about how they would feel about being on a stage, and many said they would be embarrassed. However, some people can do it, even if they’re scared, they managed to perform, and quite well actually, so why can’t I?

… can I?


  1. First, I think you need to give yourself more credit- you did well! Standing up and working out what to say is HARD, really hard, if you have no time to prepare. You had no idea what each of the performers was going to do, you couldn’t prepare in advance, and it’s not the type of improvising most of us have to do in our daily life. It’s different to talk impro on a topic we’re familiar with.

    Second, don’t compare yourself to the guys, one is a lifelong performer and the other a born comedian in groups. Both very different to your personality (but complementary to yours!).

    Finally, how can some of us do it and you can’t? I’d argue that if you were able to sit up there in front of everyone yesterday, you can do it- you don’t have a crippling phobia of performing, which is a good start. But also, most of the people yesterday had performance experience, which helps a lot. Just getting practice is a good start, the more you do it, the more you begin to realise that even the worst that could happen (whatever that is), isn’t that bad. Unless you’re a professional, odds are the audience you’re performing to is a supportive one- they want you to succeed, and aren’t going to ridicule you if something goes wrong (like, say, forgetting the lyrics…). Preparation helps, the more confident you are in the material the better. Performing with other people can help share the burden. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of practice- perform whenever you can, to whoever you can. The only way to do it is to just do it, really.

    For what it’s worth, I was (much) more nervous yesterday than I’ve been at any of my concerts. Work is a tough place to perform- and I present to a lot of them on a daily basis!

    I know of a cool choir company you could join 😉


    • Thanks for your comment, Amanda, I really appreciate you taking the time to get back to me on this, especially when you could simply tell me in person! So thanks for leaving your opinion here!

      You’re right, it takes courage to do what I did, and hey, I did it, so I’m one step farther than I was before. When I spoke about performing, I’m not really that interested into singing (I know which choir you’re talking about, hehe), it would definitely be interesting, but I don’t think it’s my calling, if you like. I was talking more about the fact of standing in front of an audience.

      I understand what you say about being more nervous in front of colleagues than at your concerts: you do know these people and they don’t necessarily know about this side of your personality, so they have already formed an opinion of who you are and what you do, and you’re suddenly showing them a more personal side.
      One of the guys (judges) actually told me that his hands were shaking while he was speaking and introducing acts, so even when they look like they don’t care, they still get nervous, which makes me feel slightly better.

      I agree about comparing myself (or anyone else) with other people, but I always aspire to be better, and sometimes you need some inspiration to focus on. Luckily, I am surrounded with people that inspire me on a daily basis, some with life changing moments and others with a down-to-earth, easy-to-miss acts (nothing goes unnoticed for me!) I meant I would simply like to be as brave and be able to do it without getting stuck in my head.

      In any case, this is something I will conquer at some point. I think I will always be nervous when speaking in front of an audience, but I am confident I will manage to deliver a good speech at some point in my life. This year was just a deadline to get me started, but it’s a long term change.

      Thank you again for your encouragement, I don’t take it lightly, especially when I see how confident you look on stage! Oh, and I love the song you performed… Really, really good!


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