Singing builds confidence.
Stepping outside our comfort zone is a recipe for prosperous growth. In her viral TED Talk and series of books, Brenée Brown has lauded vulnerability as an essential step towards happiness and fulfillment. Through trying new things, we expand the boundaries of what we believe is possible. We grow.
Singing is one of the most vulnerable human activities. For countless people I meet in my music therapy practice, singing in front of other people is not only terrifying to them – they are convinced it is impossible. And yet, singing is the most natural human impulse. Animals do it, babies do it. Persons living with advance dementia will often vocalize to self-soothe. “You don’t want to hear me sing” is one of the most common comments I hear from music therapy clients, often spoken with a light-hearted spirit of dismissal or brushing something off.
But the reality is, I do want to hear them sing. And when they do sing, it is invariably beautiful.
What are the possibilities for growth when we step outside our comfort zone? In the music therapy group I facilitate in an outpatient mental health program, we focus on music as a means for risk-taking. Participants try new things they never thought they could do – improvising on instruments, songwriting, singing. They leave the sessions feeling lighter, more embodied, and with the freshness that comes from doing something they didn’t think was in their reach. The hardest part isn’t the music-making – that comes easily because it is so natural. The hardest part is giving themselves permission to make music.
The fear of singing is learned, and cultural. This is a world where reality TV shows like American Idol improve ratings by publically shaming people’s voices. The fear of singing shouldn’t be taken lightly. Taking a risk when we aren’t supported healthily is dangerous and can do damage. Perhaps, through reading this series, you’ve been thinking more and more that you’d really like to carve out more space in your life for singing, but acknowledge that there’s fear. The short answer: you should sing! But find spaces and environments where you will be supported to take risks. Avoid settings where there’s any chance of you being shamed for your risk-taking. Find a wholesome community choir, or a wonderful campfire singalong, a friend who will go for a long drive with you while you sing along to your favourite rock album, or an open mic environment that nurtures risk-takers.
Risk-taking builds confidence. Singing is a risk with wonderful emotional, social, spiritual and physical rewards. It’s our human right, so let’s make space for it.
Sarah Pearson is a music therapist working in oncology and palliative care in Kitchener, ON . She is the Program Development Coordinator for the Room 217 Foundation and Lead Facilitator of the Music Care Certificate Program.