Over the last week, I have experienced a crisis in confidence that I haven't felt since I was about 14 years old. Back then I lacked confidence so severely that I couldn't even order a pizza over the phone. People who know me today find it hard to believe that I was ever shy. But I was. And it wasn't until I found my voice (my singing voice) that my confidence started to bloom.
Even though I began singing at the age of 9, I wasn't always sure of myself. Adults often complimented my ability but other kids taunted and teased me. It wasn't cool to sing at church. So, it took years for me to get comfortable standing in front of a crowd and it took years for me to truly tap into my talent. Once I reached my singing potential, I drew my confidence from that experience. And it was built up by the applause of the audiences, the approval of strangers. Validation sunk in a lot quicker when it came from people I didn't know, people who didn't have to tell me I'd done a good job.
That pattern continued into my adult life. The stage upon which I have performed has grown. This past summer I sang in front of a crowd of nearly 60,000 people and a television audience of over 1 million. It was the highest point, so far, of my music career. And in my "small" town of St. Louis, people recognize me and kids ask for my autograph.
A few weeks ago, I lost my biggest singing job. It was a regular gig with the St. Louis Blues. Last season, I sang at 22 games. Locally, much of my singing identity came from that job. But this year, the Blues ownership decided to go with one singer for the entire season and they chose another singer over me. The news crushed me, honestly.
This new development combined with a new job and a couple of relationship issues sent me reeling into a confidence crisis.
I haven't heard the applause in a while. And I don't know what to do without it. I don't know how to be me without it. I miss the spotlight, yes. I miss the people more. And I miss singing and feeling the energy of the crowd around me and the release at the end that comes in the applause.
Who am I if I don't sing? And who am I if the people don't clap at the end?
I am that 14 year old girl. Unsure of herself and wary of compliments. Insecure. Paranoid. So sure that, at any moment, everything else will disappear just like the applause did.