“How do I overcome the fear of looking like an idiot? As it applies to both dating and karaoke.”
-Question submitted by Anonymous
When I was four years old, my mom took me to my dad’s office building for the first time. I don’t remember anything about the visit past one critical moment that happened in the office cafeteria. I had carefully selected a bunless hot dog out of the vast array of lunchroom options and I must have been feeling quiteproud of myself, because I also asked to be allowed to cut the hot dog up into tiny pieces all on my own. Permission to cut the dog was granted, and I took my plastic fork and knife and proudly began my dissection. Two cuts in, however, I met with resistance. My knife was having difficulty making it all the way through the hot dog. I knew what would help: I just needed to use all the force in my mighty four-year-old body to push the knife through to the other side. I wasn’t yet well versed in physics, and so didn’t foresee the knife completing its cut, leaving my hand entirely, and ricocheting across the cafeteria alongside more than half of my hot dog.
Every single person in the cafeteria stopped, and turned to look at me.
Upon collectively realizing that one of their co-workers hadn’t been suddenly inspired to start a food fight, but rather that a sweet, innocent, helpless 4-year-old had just had some difficulty with her plasticware, they all laughed. They all laughed. My parents and every other grown-ass person in the room laughed, and their laughter meant one thing, and one thing only to me: They thought I wasn’t yet capable of being as big, as grown, or as smart as they were. They thought I was too small. I was devastated. Inconsolable.
In that moment, two things were happening at the very same time. The fire in my belly was screaming BUT YOU ARE SMART AND YOU DO KNOW HOW TO DO THIS THING AND YOU ARE STRONG AND BIG AND THEY DON’T KNOW ANYTHING, while the shrinking feeling in my chest was whimpering, what if you aren’t all of those things, what if they are right, what if you are too small, too stupid?
We’ve all had this experience, Anonymous, both as four-year-olds and as grown-ass adults, both cutting hot dogs and going on first dates… and if you are anything like me you still carry those same conflicting feelings of insistent confidence & total self-doubt. We value what others perceive sometimes (oftentimes) over our own knowledge of ourselves, and we doubt what we already know. Just like I knew I could cut that hot dog when I asked for permission to do so, you know that you are a fucking great human and that when you set out with the intention of having a blast, both karaoke and dating become much, much easier (and much more entertaining). But then! With just one sideways glance from another person, many of us suddenly lose that footing and wonder and worry that maybe we really weren’t capable, maybe we really weren’t so great, and maybe we should put down the microphone.
My advice to you is twofold: First, remember the tale of tiny Kristin and her bunless hotdog. Remember that the capabilities that I had in that moment did not change just because a room full of people thought I was small and cute. Many of them likely still even believed I was capable, but the bigger point is that even if all of them thought I was so small and silly, I was a four year old with the force of the whole universe inside of me. I could and did have the ability to cut that hotdog – not to mention the ability to learn from my missteps. Only I needed to know that to make it true, just like you are the only person who needs to know that you are the fucking best when you go on that date or belt out a RENT showtune. If the person or people you are with think otherwise, that’s on them. You are you, and you aren’t stupid. You’re a person. People are SO INTERESTING AND COMPLEX (annnnd for the record karaoke is not about singing talent, it is about having a goddamn blast.)
Second, the more we enjoy ourselves and speak our truth, the more attractive we become. I cannot tell you how much I lean on that knowledge every day of my life. I see people like Amanda Palmer or Elle King or Nicolette Mason or Janet Mock (and the list goes on!) who speak WHAT THEY FEEL and walk through this life not apologizing for their thoughts, their vision, their bodies, or any piece of themselves, and how goddamn brilliant and endlessly attractive I find them all because of that lived existence. Remember them, or the many other people who you admire because they are unapologetically themselves.
If you still find yourself wavering, feel free to tell your audience (whether that be your date, a full bar, or otherwise) the story of Kristin and her flying hot dog. It is usually a crowdpleaser.