Strength In Vulnerability: Being Afraid And Doing It Anyway – A Case Study

There’s a really good chance that by now you have heard the song “This Is Me.” Maybe you saw Keala Settle sing this anthem on The Greatest Showman or heard it playing on the airwaves. Something you might not know is, at one point, she felt afraid to sing that song in front of a relatively small group of people.

You’ll want to watch this video of her singing it live for the first time before continuing reading this article. I mean, you don’t have to, it’s totally up to you, but it really won’t make as much sense without it. It’s okay, I’ll wait.

Okay, amazing, right? First of all, I want to point out that she does something really important that a lot of us overlook. She shows up despite her fear. It can be easy to rationalize to ourselves that we’re not ready and it’s okay to stay small or we’ll do that scary thing another time. Nope, she showed up.

Next, she starts the song. That’s another big step! For sure we can’t be heard if we don’t use our voice. That might sound super simple, but I’m sure we can all point to times when it took a lot of courage just to open our mouth and let our authenticity come out. Just starting the process can lead to bigger things.

After that, she does the thing she says she’s most afraid to do, she steps out from behind the music stand. The music stand isn’t big, but it’s symbolic of being safe. It’s interesting to me that when she’s standing behind the music stand her voice is a little shaky and she looks unsure of herself. I’m not convinced as a viewer that she’s going to pull this off. Her voice gets stronger after she lowers the stand and steps out from behind it. Did you notice that, too? Stepping out from safety signals trust in our knowing.

That leads me to another action that is somewhat invisible and many people forget about it. She’s practiced. She’s practiced singing. She’s practiced singing this song. She practiced singing this song in this room without all the people there. She’s put a lot of time, energy, and practice behind the scenes. Her practice might be the wind that buoys her when the fear kicks in. Her practice reminds her that she’s done this before and she can do it again.

The next thing that we see her doing that is so powerful is connecting. Did you see how once she connects with the people in the band her energy totally shifts? As she starts owning it, they step it up too. The guy in the red hoodie who is singing the duet with her stands on a chair. I see that as an act of courage reflecting her act of courage. There are more smiles and connection and the band sounds tighter. The cohesion doesn’t stop there. As the camera pans around the room, we see that many of the people are standing up, singing, and joining in. They are adding their energy to her energy.

Last of all, Keala reaches out for support. In the recap at the beginning of the video, she says she’s still so scared that she takes Hugh’s hand. To me, she’s rocking it, but in truth the song isn’t over and she’s still very much on stage and doing something that really challenges her. That single act creates a moment where they connect and he tears up. If I were to guess, I’d guess that he tears up for the same reason I do, seeing her step into her power and being so courageous despite feeling vulnerable. “This is brave, this is bruised, this is who I’m meant to be, this is me.”

This is a wonderful example of someone transforming their energy from fearful to free. I am inspired every time I watch it.

I’ve been in a situation similar to this when I was asked to play the fiddle for a beginning-of-the-year all-school gathering held in my college gymnasium. My stomach kept flipping, my fingers were clammy, and I thought about ditching. Even though I’d played this song a ton of times, the stakes had never been this high for me before. I’d been an orchestra member and played with piano accompaniment, but in this situation it was just me on a stage playing for my peers.

After being introduced, I started playing and for the first couple of measures I was in my head. The lights were too bright. My fingers felt sluggish. Then, as I kept going, I remembered to connect. I sought out friendly faces in the audience. I dug deeper and played from my heart like I had nothing to lose. As I got out of my head and connected with that much bigger energy, I relaxed into what I knew. People clapped along, and when the song was over the crowd stood on their feet cheering for me. Those “strangers” joined up with me and in that moment we, as a group, connected through the song. Was it really the song, though? Or was it the energy of connection that was already there and the song was the vehicle that activated it?

Whatever it is, it’s the same thing I see happening in the video. Keala was willing to step into her power and the people around her could feel it. It’s palpable. We know when someone is taking a risk and putting themselves out there and the power of one person owning the stage is inspiring and lifts us all.

Does any of this resonate with you? Do you have a stage you’re ready to step onto? When we do any or all of the actions mentioned above, we are aligning with our truth and that is a very powerful and courageous act. When you follow your heart you inspire others to do the same. It’s contagious in the best possible way!

Rachel Billingsley
Writer. Wanderer. Explorer. Educator.
Not all who wander are lost, they might just be exploring so they can educate themselves and write about it.


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