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Clowning – more than silly and stupid

A couple of weeks ago I attended a clowning workshop. My intention was to feel more at ease when I’m in front of a group or a camera. I love play and humour and at the same time I find it stressful to deal with my anxiety.  I really could feel an urge to change this issue and I was eager to find out how can I enjoy myself while standing up front.

After some research, I came across clowning workshops in Bristol with Holly Stoppit and decided spontaneously to register for a beginners workshop.

We were 12 participants and of course, we had lots of fun, laughter and excitement. Nevertheless, I discovered that we are all were dealing more or less with the same issue: stress, anxiety and discomfort when we’re standing in front of others. It didn’t seem to matter whether you are a professional performer or a complete newcomer.

Here are some sentences that I picked up from the participants: ‘How can I do it right?… I feel anxious about making mistakes… I feel anxious to fail… It’s silly. It’s embarrassing… I’m not sure if I’m funny enough etc. It was a relief to witness that I’m not alone with my anxiety.

There were also tears. We touched on vulnerability, the inner critic, shame, body work, voice play, breathing, relaxation, flow, rhythm, trauma, grief, connection, disconnection, acceptance, self-acceptance, being aware of the connection with ourselves/team partner/audience and the importance of being authentic.

One topic stays with me: shame. On the workshop, I came to understand that when we show ourselves, we risk being judged and labelled, for example, that we’re being stupid, silly or childish. Showing up is a vulnerable place. Some sadness came up in me because I believe this is our social condition – it starts when we are born and is deeply anchored in our cells.

The bodywork helped me to get in touch with feelings of shame and how these are linked to anxiety. I came in touch with grief, which allowed me to do some healing. I could acknowledge my longings for fun, belonging, playfulness, self-acceptance/acceptance and self-valuing/being valued.

We received lots of invitations in the clowning exercises to feel the pleasure in our bodies. Slowly I was able to enjoy what I’m doing. I discovered joy and I learned how to keep the connection with myself, with my team partner and the group. I was pleasantly surprised that a compassionate connection has a very important role in clowning. It was liberating!