What a little bathroom karaoke reminded me about moments of joy

I suck at singing. Like, I’m ‘dogs howling at the assault of the sound’ bad. 

But I love to sing.

Correction.

I used to love to sing. Belting out a tune at full volume in the car on the way to pick up Sienna from school. Letting rip in the kitchen with my rendition of Bob Marley’s Is This Love as I chopped carrots and made dinner. Of course, I’d only sing when no one was around. I’m kind. But I would sing.

Somewhere along the line though, I stopped. Singing out loud, even to myself, brought out a shrieking self-flagellating critical voice that stopped me mid aria. “God that sounds awful,” it would say. “You’re so out of tune. You should be embarrassed about letting this cacophony out into the ether, regardless of whether anyone can hear it,” it would scold.

So, I stopped. Our inner voices are the most strident.

But I made a discovery last Tuesday. I was facilitating a two-day workshop with an awesome leadership team. They’re big days. There’s something about preparing myself to be present that’s important in my morning routine as I get ready for these encounters.

So at 6.45am, I had stepped out of the shower, towel in place. I was focussed, on point. I put on my favourite Spotify playlist (loud, as I do) and proceeded to get ready for the day in my hotel bathroom.  I accidentally pressed the lyrics feature on Spotify as one of my favourite songs came on. And with the lyrics urging me to follow their white and yellow prompts, I began to sing along. Tentatively, quietly, apologetically at first. But something deep inside was activated with my tentative warblings. A feeling from years ago that I’d long since forgotten, took hold.

Let’s just say that by the end of my song, when I’d finished putting on my makeup, I was leaping around the hotel bathroom, brush microphone in hand, belting out a tune as though I was Lady Gaga at her biggest concert. Giggling, grinning, full to the brim with joy. And for the first time in a long time, I didn’t care that I was out of tune. 

It felt so good. 

I felt so good. 

It was only after we had, as a team, performed our waiata before we started our session that I had my epiphany.

It’s OK to do something that we suck at if it brings us joy. We’re not doing something for any specific outcome. We’re not doing something because it’s a strength or for any particular purpose. We’re doing it just for the sheer fun of it – and that’s totally a valid reason.  I know I won’t win any American Idol contests. But it doesn’t matter.  

Life is tough. Don’t deprive yourself these little moments of joy. Do something that makes you laugh and fills your heart up – even if, like me, you suck at it. Give that inner critic the bird. Especially if listening to it threatens to rob you of a moment of childlike, unselfconscious joy. Because, lets be honest, we can all do with a bit of that goodness.

So from now on, if you’re in Nelson, you might see me belting out some tunes if you pull up beside me at the traffic lights. I love singing and I’m going to add this to the little things that fill up my tank. 

What is your something that you maybe loved doing when you were younger, but you perhaps weren’t the best at? Somewhere along the line, your inner voice told you to stop. It told you to give it up because you weren’t any good at it. You weren’t going to make the A team. What is your ‘singing in the bathroom’ thing?

Return to it. Give it a go again. Quietly, tentatively, at first if you must. But don’t let that sucker punch inner critic shut you off from that moment of “nothing to prove, no goal needed, pure, unadulterated” delight.

And I’d love you to share with me below when you find it…

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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