You may have no idea who Friedrich Nietzsche is but I bet you have heard the quote
“That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”Friedrich Nietzsche , Twilight of the Idols
That line has echoed in a bajillion songs and has shown up in an equal number of movies. I first saw it in the beginning of Conan, the Barbarian – which was a fitting lead to the character of Conan. And surely, we go through our own trials and tribulations on a daily basis that help us adapt and overcome life’s challenges, and most of us , having faced our challenges, end up a little tougher on the tail end of the challenge.
My daughter has been attending choir practice for some time, motivated by all the reality shows that involve singing. She hadn’t experienced the pressure of being in front of a crowd, however. So, on her first day of being in front of the congregation, she got her first real taste of anxiety. I could relate, I’ve been there! She made it through the song just fine but had an emotional breakdown afterwards. The bad news was that she would have to do the same song for the next service. I held her tightly and told her that, when daddy had to get in front of audiences, it always felt a little easier each time I did it. And that was no exaggeration, I’ve been working in front of audiences for some time. Software demos, training, service work – I’ve had a lot of time to work through my own anxieties.
My first real experience with stage fright was having to do a speech in high school. That type of audience is the worst, none of them want to be there and they are all perfectly willing to rip you apart if you fail. My teacher told me to focus on a mid line in the audience and try not to look at faces. This was my first exposure to using mindfulness tactic as a coping mechanism. Years later, I would be using the same tactic in front of large audiences to help me. And soon I was comfortable enough to start looking at people, and reading faces – which in turn helped me push my public speaking ability to new heights. I was able to overcome by anxiety by pushing onward in my work.
So in my arms was this crying little girl, gripping my so hard that I thought she might end up a permanent attachment. The next service comes around and, after some encouraging words, she gets back up with the choir. This time around, she’s smiling. She’s even occasionally laughing. The whole choir is. She was completely relaxed and performing. I couldn’t believe my eyes. What took me years to overcome, she shook off in roughly an hour.
Which brings me back to Neitzsche. In Twilight of the Idols, one theme to emerge from that work was that humans need to value life despite the suffering. And through our trials, we get to experience both pain and reward. And while we value the rewards and pleasures of living, we would be lost had we not experienced the suffering. Our suffering is very much a past of our life and we should embrace our struggles as part of the journey. That’s not a bad mediation to come from the actions of a 9 year old choir singer.