A while back, I ran into a girl from high school I hadn’t seen in several years. She and I knew each other from the super intense choir we had both been in, so of course our mutual passion is singing. She marched right up to me at an event we were at, said the usual “hi, how are ya,” then said: “OMG I saw you a couple years ago… you were driving, and you were singing in your car – like, FULL ON. It was AWESOME.”
Friends and family will know the shade of tomato my face immediately turned, but I also guffawed out loud because I knew exactly what she was talking about. When I’m in my car, I’m that person that forgets that every other driver can see her, and instead, looks like she’s been called up on stage in Vegas to fill in for Celine Dion and is sooo ready. And Lord help me if I’m listening to musical theatre. There’s a lot of acting and faces and, if I’m at a red light (I’m not a total psycho), very triumphant hand gestures.
So yesterday, I was doing my usual car-greatest-hits (“thank u, next” was on, and my Ariana impression is fiiiiire), and I pulled up beside a lady at a red who… caught a good part of the show. She looked BEMUSED, you guys. I caught her eye, we both laughed, and then… I threw my imaginary giant ponytail back and hit that second verse like a BOSS. My car, my show.
When it comes to looking like an idiot, I’m a bit of a pro. Let’s just say that my “unafraid to look like an idiot muscles” are extremely toned from years of use. It comes with the territory when you’re training to be an opera singer – TRUST ME. If you aren’t willing to continuously try things, fail (in front of your peers! Lots of whom are hoping you’ll fall on your face!), and get back up to do the same thing the next day, you will never, ever grow. You will never get to where you want to be if you’re not willing to look like an idiot because (1) you’ll never figure out how to get better, (2) you’ll never “find your own voice”, artistically speaking, and (3) you’ll never take the scary opportunities that, ultimately, are what move any career forward.
Same as a baby lawyer. If you aren’t willing to walk into a partner’s office, tail between your legs, to admit that you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing on a certain task or file, and beg for assistance because you’re pretty sure you’re an idiot who skipped this week of law school and confess that you just spent a whole day down a fruitless rabbit hole… well, you’ll never learn. You’ll never get ahead. You’ll never be a Real lawyer and fulfill your lawyer destiny.
But even more importantly, if you’re always afraid of looking like an idiot, you will never really, truly feel like yourself.
The other day, I wrote about why each and every person has “The It Factor”, and why that really means knowing you’re awesome, and showing the world how awesome you are, even the weird parts. Being unafraid of looking stupid is really about holding your own personal ground and saying, continuously, “I am perfectly wonderful, just the way I am.” You are celebrating your you-ness just by being unafraid to look dumb. When we’re afraid to look stupid, we’re really afraid of being made-fun-of or disrespected. We’re afraid of what other people will say to us or about us. And that fear only comes from not knowing that, even when we haven’t got it all figured out, we are still perfect little human creatures. And we are worthy of expressing that however we damn please.
So, why do I sing in my car? It’s not because I’m trying to build that skill (I’ve already got it, okurrr? Wait… am I even using that correctly?). No, it’s because I embrace any opportunity to enjoy myself and BE myself, including times that makes me look like an idiot. And I can say that’s gotten me a long way, not just in artistic pursuits, but also in business, networking, professional development, and in my relationships. When you embrace “looking like an idiot,” what you’re actually embracing is being yourself.
So post that weird GIF, openly carry that super-nerdy book you’re reading without hiding the cover, and sing in your damn car. You’ll build your “not afraid to look like an idiot” muscles AND let your unique little light shine.