Published January 21, 2018 The other day during my voice lesson, my teacher could not stop telling me to RELAX MY FREAKING JAW while I was singing. I wasn’t hitting high notes properly because my mouth was so damn tense… and no matter how hard I tried to let go, it would tighten back up when I wasn’t paying attention. We tend to hold a lot of stress in our jaws, so this told me there was some underlying tension I was clutching for dear life. I took a second to think about what was *really* going on and said, “I think I’m so scared to make a mistake that my body can’t relax.” The pressure had to manifest somewhere, and there it was. “It’s a lesson,” she said. “You’re supposed to mess up in here so that you can get better out there.” I realized that in my mind, I was calculating the technical mechanics of my singing process in such a precise manner that I wasn’t able to be comfortable physically. It was the only way I felt I had full control of my performance. I’m so hard on myself when I’m not ‘perfect’ or at ‘my best’ that I was preventing myself from making the right mistakes that would lead me to natural, instinctive corrections. I was tense because my brain was trying to mechanically control my body with memorized technique, rather than me trusting my body to do its best work in a relaxed state. It’s like a kid whose mom follows him around trying to protect him from the world, when he would be able to blossom into protecting himself if there wasn’t that resistance. I wasn’t owning my power: that I am a singer who knows how to sing. I was trying to pinpoint and anticipate every note, clogging my mind with manual adjustments rather than allowing my gift to flow intuitively. This is just one of the ways I’m learning that I give away my power. In this instance, I was giving it away to the circumstances of the situation. I thought if I could control the tangible, external factors (proper belly breath, engaged lower abs), then I could either: a) have the ability to repeat those factors and thus repeat/control my success, or b) have the ability to BLAME those factors if I did make a mistake. In reality, being fully present and in tune with the music was my true power – not the things I could control. Because you can’t control talent, and you can’t control art… all you can do is express it without expectation. THAT is where the magic happens. Control is a big theme for me lately and I’m trying to figure out why I have such a need to do it. I think a lot of it goes back to UNCONDITIONAL vs CONDITIONAL self love. Do we love ourselves for who we are, for the simple fact that we exist? Or do we love ourselves for what we do, depending on if we do it? The first type of love allows you to relax and flourish, whereas the second one leaves you with performance anxiety, blocked creativity, and a tense jaw. The second one will never be enough because it will always be dependent on the outer (output/accomplishments) rather than the inner (inherent worth). And if you don’t feel that inherent worth, you’ll always look for it in external factors, which leads you to the need to control them. A lack of unconditional love for yourself also leads you to give away the power of deciding that worth to others. This is what they mean when they say bullies can spot an ‘easy target’ from a mile away. I was always that target as a kid, which is why I do the work to change that now. I want to end with asking you where and why you are holding onto control. Are you blocking the gifts that naturally flow from your being when you’re in a relaxed state by putting expectations on your art? Do you refuse to let go and make mistakes, laughing it off as the curse of perfectionism? Are you stunting your own growth by making sure that everything you do is calculated, polished and mechanical rather than raw, real and intuitive? Notice it in your body: does this need to control manifest in a never-ending tightness in your jaw? Is it preventing you from fully relaxing into sexual bliss and orgasm? Is it hindering performance at your job because the standards you’ve set for yourself are unrealistically high? When we try to control our art, our work, our relationships, or ourselves, we are holding onto a false sense of power that is dependent on CIRCUMSTANCE + CONDITIONS rather than our natural ABILITIES + GIFTS. And believe me, you have gifts that are bigger than you know. Trust them to bear the weight of perfection that you’ve placed on your own shoulders. Your true power exists in your most relaxed and intuitive state… when you understand that you don’t have to know every single word of the next chapter, as long as you know the author. Get to know that author, love that author, and most of all… trust that author enough to let go. You’ve been holding tight for long enough.