Don’t let me down.

I enjoy watching creative talents in action. I love hearing people sing and I even often watch TV talent shows such as X factor or The Voice for the pure enjoyment of catching an amazing performance or voice I’ve never heard that gives me goosebumps.

I guess it’s a love, hate thing. I despise the whole manipulative, judging aspect of it, but I love the exposing of talent. I flit between feeling ashamed of watching and contributing to that sort of industry, and then convincing myself that I can use it for the analytical/research purposes of the human condition. I recently came across a section of The X factor where the contestants go to a judge’s house to be whittled down to the remaining few who will compete in live shows. In the midst of enjoying some of their singing there were some nail scraping, irritating moments; namely those that involve judges patronisingly sending them home, or contestants bringing on the waterworks while spouting what I can only describe as a great example of what’s wrong with human thinking and perspective in general.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with crying of course; what felt wrong was the cause of the tears. I may as well make use of the ‘research purposes’ by taking a look at some of the things quoted on the episode I watched:

  • ‘Don’t let me down’ – this was often quoted by judges with God complexes (that were more interested in becoming the judge with the winner) to blubbing young contestants, and is wrong on so many levels. I think it’s misleading and unfair to put extra pressure on them to feel they are there to live up to judges expectations. The only thing I feel they should be doing is not letting themselves down, by taking it all with a pinch of salt and just giving their all while enjoying the event.
  • ‘I just can’t go back to…’ – my crap job, my family with a ‘no’ etc. This implies that they see the reality of their lives as a purely bad situation and they are pinning all their hopes on one competition as their ‘salvation’. Have they suddenly forgotten all the good little things they have in life?  I bet if they looked hard enough they’d find something good. It also implies there is not enough for everyone in the world, and this is the general competition mentality. It would be so much less traumatic and over-emotional if it was seen as a practice platform to further hone their skills as opposed to the be all and end all of their lives.
  • ‘This is make or break’ – Similar to the above scenario, this is saying that X-factor is the only route to happiness and success for the contestant; what does this say about people’s measure of success? This is even more disturbing when coming from the mouth of contestants still in their teens, because if they don’t ‘make it’ in the competition then I would assume based on their comment, that the rest of their lives will be broken.
  • ‘I’ve got kids, I have to give them a good future’ – Fair enough, but this is often expanded on to give you the feeling that if the contestant doesn’t win then they won’t be giving their child enough. Enough of what? material objects, fame and status to show off to their friends? If they don’t win is their child’s future doomed? In my opinion if a child is loved and supported emotionally and taught to believe in themselves, then they will have been given the best possible upbringing anyone could wish for. Children want their parents presence, love and attention more than anything else. The contestants children are often used in the competition to pull at viewers heart-strings for votes.
  • ‘I’ll never feel anything like this again’ – Usually referring to the range of emotions and excitement they are currently feeling, but how do they know that? The younger ones especially are already cutting their future off from the wonderful experiences that are still to come, and that’s very sad.
  • ‘I’ll never have an opportunity like this again’ – well maybe not in that specific competition but surely if singing is the persons true passion they won’t give up on it so easily, and even then, many of the contestants return to compete year after year. Not all singers or bands got signed through X-factor which surely proves there are other avenues that may become available.
  • ‘I’m not young anymore’ – this is a common quote from the over 25’s section on X-factor, and in this particular episode came from a 28-year-old, whose mother then went on to say she was old and I almost spilled my tea in horror; what does that make me then? No wonder people give up so easily, if they believe 28 is too old to realise an ambition, then that explains a lot of the unhappiness and dissatisfaction in life from dreams and ambitions left untended. If singing is truly your passion, it may come about in a different format to the one you thought it would come in, however you won’t know it’s there if you’re convinced X-factor is your only way in. The contestants might do with asking themselves; do I want to sing for the rest of my life, or do I just want to be rich and famous?

These types of false beliefs are often drummed into our brains early on and create a lack mentality that massively reduces our possibilities, opportunities and self-esteem, mainly because these perceptions put blinkers on us so that even if a possibility were right next to us; we wouldn’t know how to see it.

All of this being said I am well aware of the nature of these shows and the manipulation involved of both contestant and viewer is to be expected, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s OK. It’s time to start asking ourselves what our personal measures and definitions are, so that we no longer have to live up to anyone else’s ideas and expectations.

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