The Stories We Tell Ourselves...

September 30, 2022


When I was little, I loved to sing.

At about six years old while on holiday I got up on stage and sang a rendition of 'Hopelessly Devoted To You' that to this day and a degree in theatre later, is probably the best performance I have ever given. I was confident, and happy, and I believe... I was good. But at six that didn’t really matter to me. All I knew was that singing and being on stage made me giddy with happiness.

I loved being able to express different things, to pretend to be someone else, to dance along to the music, and sing whatever I thought the lyrics were.

I’d sing without really thinking about it.

I didn’t know much about the technical side of it. Notes, and tune and key and pitch, didn’t really interest me. I didn’t want to sing something technically perfect, I wanted to sing things LOUD, and proud, and without ever really thinking about it. I just loved to do it.

And then, I realised I might not be good at it, and that maybe to other people that mattered.

Actually, I didn’t realise. It wasn’t something that naturally dawned on me one day. It’s something that I became acutely aware of thanks to a grown up.

My head teacher at primary school actually. 

My primary school LOVED to sing. Thinking back, there are many things about my primary school that were actually a bit weird. You know the type of thing you thought every kid did, and it’s only when you casually mention it to a group of your friends now, and they look at you with blank faces that you realise… oh, actually, that was WAS WEIRD.

Like having a statue of Mary in the corner of a play ground, and going to apologise to it, when you did something wrong (this wasn’t enforced by teachers by the way… from memory, it was just something kids made each other do). Anyway I’m getting off track…

As I said, my school LOVED to sing. So much so we spent whole Wednesday afternoons doing it. On an almost weekly basis. As a whole school. Just hundreds of kids all singing away as one big collective. Occasionally people might have a solo, but mainly we could just loose ourselves in the sea of voices.

But if something special was coming up, like Easter or the Christmas nativity (yes I went to a religious school as if the statue story didn’t give that away) then we’d also have extra rehearsals as a class. Here you weren’t so anonymous. And it was in one of these classes I had my rude awakening…

I can’t remember what song it was, or what event it was for. But I do remember sitting at my desk, singing away to my hearts content, getting to the end of the song, and thinking we’d all sounded great… and then my head teacher said…

“Ok lets try that again, and this time, try to be in tune Stephanie”

Now look, time might have exaggerated this memory. It might not have been that public a remark… but whether it was said for the whole class to hear or not… it doesn’t matter. Because my heart heard it.

And my heart, suddenly realised that the love it had for singing might not be enough.

And then my brain joined in, with all those thoughts that we are so used to as adults, but that we spend a large chunk of our childhood oblivious to…

Thoughts like ‘it’s embarrassing to do something badly, people will notice’

Your brain is capable of many MANY things, but that thought alone, is maybe one of the most powerful.

Because that idea, that something is embarrassing, or that you need to be good at something… that can stop you from doing things that you love. Things that make you happy. Things that are good for you on every level of your being.

After that, I still loved singing, but I became bad at it… Like I said, before this careless remark from an adult, I can’t promise I was actually good at singing, but I can tell you, that after it, singing felt much harder. More strained. If I was aware people (that weren’t closed loved ones) could hear me, I’d loose all freedom in it. And anyone who can sing, and does understand all those technicalities, will tell you, that being relaxed, and being able to control your breathing, is incredibly important. 

Embarrassment, or the fear of it, literally stopped me from being good.

In many ways I count myself lucky, that it only stopped me from feeling confident singing. That it didn’t stop me from getting up on stage entirely. That a year or so later, when we tried out acting properly for the first time, I was still free enough to go for it, and that that time, I had a teacher encourage me.

I have spent my whole life telling myself that I am creative.. but in a very specific way. 

First as an actor but not as a singer… then in my twenties, I’d start labelling myself as more of a writer or performer but not as a traditional actor (because my acting teacher told me I was funny, but that my face was “too expressive”).

And up until 2020, I had never considered myself to be visually creative. I don’t know why. I don’t remember anyone ever telling me I was bad at drawing or painting etc. and clearly from the photo above, I must have always had a natural interest in needle and thread. But I’d followed what I had been told I was good at. And the more other people told me that, the more I told myself that.

Now in my thirties I find myself, regularly telling people I am an embroidery artist. And while I wear this label, slightly easier, because I’ve had some outside validation, I’m also beginning to abandon those stories I’ve told myself about what I can and can’t do. 

Because the more you tell yourself you can’t do something, the more evidence you’ll find to prove yourself right.

Just like how embarrassment sat on my chest, and stopped me from hitting those notes. The stories we tell ourselves can stop our hand from being able to draw, or our feet from dancing. They constrict us, they tell us there is a bar of ‘goodness’ to meet, and if we don’t meet that, there’s no point doing something.

And they are wrong.

I started stitching, not to be good at it, but because I needed a creative outlet that would take my mind off things. Something I could loose myself in. Something to do just for the sake of doing it. And because I enjoyed putting needle to fabric.

That enjoyment, the doing. That is enough.

So allow yourself the freedom to do the things that make you feel giddy with happiness.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find my sparkliest headband (my style literally hasn’t changed) and smash out Hopelessly Devoted To You, until Rick threatens to leave me…

If you’re looking to try something new creatively…

Then why not join me for one of my workshops? I regularly host embroidery workshops, perfect for beginners, across Manchester. OR if you’re not local, my DIY Embroidery kits, are a workshop poured in a box, and delivered through your letterbox, and available on my Etsy.