Distress in perfection

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Heart racing, palms sweating, uncontrolled shaking. This is what I feel when called to perform in front of a crowd. However, my experiences with fear of public performance can be traced back to a time when I was on stage quite often. 

In elementary school, I played the cello in the school’s orchestra. During my first few years, performing in public was easy as I clung to something one of my teachers said. “Everyone makes mistakes. On stage, if you make a mistake, there’s a chance that no one noticed.” 

Unfortunately, that mentality failed me in the following years. At my school, I was among the older students, which meant that other students looked up to us. There was no room for error. During one of the many rehearsals that we had for a concert, there was a suffocating pressure to play flawlessly for the eager and attentive eyes in the crowd. I initially thought that playing in a concert hall was no different from playing in a small cafeteria. I was mistaken. 

The moment I stepped onto the stage, I was overwhelmed by the brightness of the spotlights and the seemingly unending darkness. The loud applause only further intimidated me. As I sat with my cello, trembling in fear, a part of me felt like a bubble ready to burst. But I managed to pull myself together and played. I kept my focus on maintaining synchronization with the rest of the cello players. As the sound of the final note faded, the hall filled with applause once again. We walked off the stage and I settled down. 

Despite being congratulated by many, I was still scarred. Since then, the thought of being perfect in the public eye never left my mind, and anything involving me and a large group of people became my worst fear. During the pandemic, I realized that even though everyone said I looked confident, the only way I was truly going to excel at speaking in front of people again is if I believe in myself, guiding me to something that I encountered online. “Making mistakes is better than faking perfection.” 

That motto resurrected the mentality that I had before the “perfect” mentality took over. Through this enlightenment, I came to the conclusion that being perfect was like trying to push a boulder up an endless mountain, a goal that could never be reached.

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