This is not a new or particularly profound idea, but as it recently brought me some much-needed inspiration, I felt compelled to share. We all know that sharing our achievements and successes is important, and necessary to cultivating continued excellence in our field. I have come to realize, however, that allowing ourselves to be vulnerable in front of our colleagues can be just as beneficial.
I recently reached out to a few of my choral friends for support, because I was feeling “off my game.” Of course, they responded graciously with suggestions and ideas to help reinvigorate my routine. As valuable as this was, though, perhaps even more so were the opportunities to hear their own misgivings and insecurities. I was surprised - naively, perhaps - to find that people I greatly respect actually felt some of the same things I did. My reaction was, “You have that anxiety dream where you’re on the podium and don’t know any of the rep? You are nervous to get up and speak? You are unsure about submitting an audition tape? But you’re…you!”
We all have those choral directors whom we hold in high regard and who appear to have it all together: their ensembles are fabulous; they exude confidence; they are organized and well-spoken and knowledgable and kind. We look up to them, we are inspired by them, and we strive to meet the standards they set. It seems the only thing that could be as encouraging as their excellence is to know that they are also human beings with insecurities and weaknesses just like everyone else - to realize that sometimes, even the best of us go home at the end of the day with frustration and self-doubt. As one of my colleagues would often remind me, “They put their pants on one leg at a time just like everybody else.”
To be clear, I am not talking about rejoicing in others’ misfortunes, like those magazines that spitefully publish horrible, unflattering celebrity photos. This is more like the supermodel who allows herself to be photographed without makeup so we can see that she is beautiful, but also that it takes work. It gives us hope; it reminds us that we can be beautiful, too.
I am grateful to my colleagues for sharing their vulnerability with me, because it made me realize something: self-doubt does not mean that we are inadequate. It just means that we are searching for excellence.
Rachael Allen - Westbrook High School Choral Director, CT-ACDA President-Elect