Relatively speaking, it should have been like a walk in the park. After all, by then I had been doing that kind of work for years. It had become second nature. So why was I suddenly a nervous wreck?
And let’s be honest, it wasn’t just like a walk in the park—it was literally a walk in the park. The year was 2008 and I had donated my magic act for a local charity hosting an event at Stanley Park in Westfield, MA. What I was supposed to do was stroll through the park performing impromptu magic for families as they partook in the day’s festivities.
That’s what I was supposed to do. But that’s not what I did. Instead, I anxiously walked through the park and every time a group of people passed by I quickly averted my eyes, hoping they wouldn’t realize I was the magician.
By that point I had already been performing some version of my magic act for over a decade and the behavior I was exhibiting that day in the park did not portray the confidence I had spent years building. What was up with it?
Perhaps you have your own story of a time in your life when you suddenly questioned your competence and with wavering confidence shied away from performing to the fullness of your ability. There can be any number of reasons for this, yet a common culprit is one that can befall us all at some point: Even just a couple instances of failure, experienced back-to-back, can be enough to lose faith in your ability to perform.
This is of course natural—we want to perform at our best—but it’s simply unrealistic to expect that we will always hit the mark every time. After all, even the world’s best baseball players strike out more than they actually hit the ball.
And it’s for this same reason that my confidence wavered that day in the park. It was my first performance after receiving two negative reviews from clients who were not happy with my performances.
The first review was from the president of an organization who had contracted me to perform for their afternoon luncheon. He said the show was childish and more appropriate for a younger audience.
The second review was from the mother of a child who had contracted me to perform for their birthday party. She said the show was too mature and more appropriate for an older audience.
Both clients wanted their money back.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but the part that struck me was that I had performed the same act for both audiences—yet the reviews were in and didn’t look good. According to reputable sources, I was neither appropriate for adults nor children! Yet there I was, in Stanley Park, expected to perform for both children and adults regardless of the circumstances and criticism.
I’m happy to say that I did eventually get over myself that day in the park and gave the people my all—resulting in smiles, laughter, and joy. The experience was a much-needed confidence boost and a reminder that we can’t please everyone, but what we can do is focus on serving the people who are in front of us ready, eager, and willing to go on an adventure.
What fuels your confidence?
I'm a mirror (and so are you).