Much space was left behind in the wake of my last column about the myth of needing the self-confidence to sing. Listing pitfalls of over and under-confidence didn’t provide strategies of how to grow healthy self-esteem, worth and value. Even if your private communion with music seems enough, self-belief is hell-important for your career, happiness and artistic development. Hopefully, by the end of this column, we’ll be closer to an accepting, productive, committed and robust sense of self. Let’s call it self-esteem, rather than the ‘c’ word, meaning ‘positive self-regard, a realistic acknowledgement of our talents and value as a person’…
Even the most talented, skilled and successful people suffer great self-doubt. We beat ourselves up because of negative core beliefs and assumptions. “Self-esteem actually has nothing to do with your achievements or with other people. Self-esteem results from… how you see yourself (and) how you treat yourself.” – Margaret Paul
It may be easier to think we ‘can’t’ do something, rather than take steps to improve. (By way of example I consider myself disorganised, but don’t use the many diaries I buy!) Vow to transform and evolve yourself at whatever pace that requires – one step/action/thought at a time. Allow yourself to really suck and repeatedly get it wrong! Roll around in it. Have fun up-skilling and learn like a mo’-fo’ from your mistakes. (I’ve had nodules twice, a vocal cord cyst surgically removed and psychosomatic voice loss more times than I can remember!)
Clean-up and clear-out unhelpful and destabilising beliefs about yourself and your abilities. Squarely look at what you don’t like, avoid, won’t face, deny, resist, undervalue and run away from in yourself and your world. Now, go to battle as a dragon-slayer! Acknowledge and tame the ‘dark side’ – destroy disempowering perspectives.
We weren’t born with negative beliefs, we learned them and can choose to keep, or discard them. Find out where your limiting beliefs come from, then reconfigure, reframe, take charge and replace them. Turn shit into fertilizer and grow self-esteem from seed! Negative beliefs are almost always untrue and never helpful.
Feeling insecure is human and shouldn’t be judged or criticised. If listening to other people deflates rather than inspires, remember Theodore Roosevelt’s astute observation – “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
Ask if you’ve made yourself a victim in your own narrative? Do you focus too much on outcome and context rather than the song you’re singing/writing? Be warned that your ego will fight back with (supposedly) rational justifications for your under-function, self-loathing and victimhood. Expect this. Get curious – allow everything to come up without judgment. Write down every reason why you feel you’re not successful and the ways in which you’re dysfunctional. Leave no stone unturned, and prepare to discover ugly-as creepy crawlies under dem rocks. You’ll probably mock this process as pointless naval-gazing… Meh. Whose voice is that you’ve internalised?
I discovered one of my stymieing beliefs in response to being corrected in my pronunciation of ‘Herculean’ by my English professor father. My inner-voice said, “I’ll never speak again!” We can believe ourselves to be talentless, idiotic and worthless. Such unchecked negative self-talk becomes automatic and disabling.
Maybe you’re like this with your voice? Maybe you perceive any correction as proof that you’re fundamentally flawed so it’s pointless trying?
Practice inner bonding. Hold yourself with the greatest compassion and tenderness with regards your responses to circumstances and feedback. Check what you think or say about yourself like, “Everything I do is wrong.” Invert it. Welcome correction and guidance graciously. Become scientific and technical so you don’t take things ’poisonally’. Fake it ’til you make it – use encouraging, congratulatory and supportive self-talk.
Build and maintain optimistic beliefs about your creative competence, process and value as well as cultivating faith in the system. If you can borrow faith from people who believe in you, please do. Positing my contributions within a larger movement/community or for a heightened purpose, removes a lot of self-doubt. Focus on the song and the function of that song. Look at success stories of musicians like you, or close to you. List 100 of your achievements and 101 wishes. Remind yourself of what music does – make it all about her.
Commercialisation in music has increased creative alienation. There isn’t a poetry ‘industry’ as with music.
Poets tend to be appreciative and supportive of their peers. The urge to write and recite mostly comes from desire, rather than ‘pleasing an audience’, entertaining or selling records. Other people’s success doesn’t remove opportunities for you – it increases them. Look at your perception of ‘lack’ and the need to compete, replace it with abundance and collaboration.
Increased access to music production and online delivery systems don’t necessarily empower us. We’re silencing ourselves before even trying. This is understandable: Imagine if an art gallery gave away its precious collection… Essentially, that’s what Spotify and free-music streaming does. That hurts. Celebrate your commitment to making music in a world that may listen less and less.
Doubt often stems from feeling we are ‘not doing justice’ to our sacred art form. We feel we’re falling short of expectations of what we, or our heroes can deliver. This simply shows you care. Allow for spiritual connection, rituals and embracing new processes. Throw it over to a force greater than yourself. We’re all channeling the same source, so no one’s better or worse once you have command over your instrument.
There’s a pervasive aching silence. We’re not contributing our unique offerings because of seemingly ‘real’ excuses for not singing, performing, writing and creating. What a shame! Why give airtime to banal mediocrity just because they’ve higher self-esteem than you? You might feel too shy, that you aren’t as good a singer/writer as X, Y or Z, have nothing to say, are too tired, old etc. That is bullshit! We need to hear you and what you have to say. No one else gonna do you the way you do you.