It’s hard to ignore the stage presence and larger-than-life personalities of divas like Beyonce, Mariah Carey and Tina Turner. They’ve certainly made a name for themselves, and this year on December 19th, VH1 will be celebrating these women at the VH1 Divas Celebrates Soul concert series. The show will pay tribute to the “great cities of soul music,” recognize the impact soul music has had on the 21st century’s music and pop culture, and feature performances from the likes of Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Hudson, and Florence + The Machine.
As our own tribute to these fearless females, today we’re exploring how you can become a more confident performer – something that these divas radiate with each breath – courtesy of Bulletproof Musician (see also: our tips earlier this week for overcoming stage fright). Learn how to strut your stuff and you’ll be sure to make a Beyonce-style impression at your next audition or performance.
First off, let’s discuss the misconceptions of self-confidence.
The good news is that confidence is something you can change – and that you actually have quite a bit of control over your level of self-confidence. This may come as something of a surprise to you, as there are many who believe that confidence is largely a character trait, that you either have it or you don’t. Others think that only success or positive feedback can build confidence, and that you can’t make mistakes or experience “failure” if you want to become more confident.
Well, it turns out that these are all just misconceptions. Many musicians suffer from a great deal of self-doubt and insecurities, despite great success. So what do you have to do to become more confident, you ask?
Ready to be like Beyonce?
One of the keys to becoming a more confident performer is mastering your self-talk.
Self-talk is the term that psychologists use to describe that internal dialogue we all have with ourselves throughout the day. You know, the one that calls us clumsy when we stub our toe on the bedpost, or an absent-minded idiot when we get back from the grocery store and realize we’ve forgotten the one thing we went there for. Some of us talk out loud or mumble to ourselves, others keep it all inside, but we all have that voice inside our head that is often very difficult to turn off.
Keep in mind that your subconscious mind is listening to everything that you say to yourself, and that it doesn’t have a filter. It will take in everything that you say, and over time, unconditionally accept the most consistent messages as reality – whether this is actually true or not.
The vast majority of the thoughts that your mind generates when you are under pressure are unhelpful. They are often irrelevant (“Hmm…I wonder what I should eat for dinner”), overly analytical (“Keep your thumb unclenched, fingers light, elbow around, shoulder down…”), or self-destructive (“Uh-oh, here comes that passage that I screwed up in rehearsals”).
If you can identify these thoughts, the next step is to create a self-talk log. Pick a piece that you’re working on that’s particularly challenging, and record yourself performing it. While playing, pay attention to anytime you have a thought – pause, and repeat it out loud so your audio recording captures it. When you’re done, take note of all of the thoughts you had throughout your practice session.
How many of them were critical, unsupportive, irrelevant, distracting, and the type of remark that you would never say to a friend? Did you insult yourself or make personal attacks? Were you able to keep your mind rooted in the present, or did your thoughts linger on mistakes or even review past incidents when you’ve made that same mistake? Did your thoughts project into the future?
If you notice a pattern, it’s time to make a change. From now on, each time you hear yourself engaging in negative self-talk, “overwrite” it with more supportive, constructive and self-supporting thoughts. For example, instead of thinking “Why do I always rush that passage and mess it up? I’m such a screw-up!”, think “Hey, take it easy. Even the best make mistakes too. Get refocused and move on. Plenty of time to figure out why this happened later.” Even if the positive thoughts seem corny or fake, the idea is to come up with thoughts that help you feel more positively inside, and ultimately keep you moving towards success.
Follow these steps and your new-found confidence will help you with auditions, performances and more – in fact, it might be the most important facet of your success as a musician!
Readers: what strategies do you use to keep your confidence level up? Do you practice these tips of monitoring your inner voice?
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