Do you ever wonder how good your skills would be now if you started practicing a year ago? A question like this should motivate, not dishearten you. In this article, guest writer Elizabeth Kane will take you through six destructive beliefs you might face as you’re learning how to become a musician, and how you can overcome them…
Mind Over Matter
Your mind is a powerful tool. Your thoughts dictate just about every conscious decision you make.
Whether you’re a beginner guitarist who’s just learning how to hold your instrument or a seasoned singer who’s preparing for an important vocal audition, your thoughts can make or break your self-esteem.
Negative or self-doubting thoughts are mental poison — they can hurt your confidence and stop you from taking risks.
Risks Are Good
As you learn how to become a musician, you’ll soon understand it’s your job to take risks. It’s also your job to bring beautiful music (through passion) to an audience that craves authenticity. For this reason alone, we’ve got to put a stop to these perilous ideas that creep into our minds when we’re feeling overwhelmed.
Are you ready to face them? I’ll help you along.
Six Destructive Beliefs and How to Overcome Them
1) “If only I had…”
We think we need a particular instrument. We imagine learning from a specific teacher. We dream about having more time to practice.
Whatever it is, we have an idea that if only we had this or that, then, and only then, would we become the perfect musician.
But life doesn’t work like this.
Sure, we DO need a quality instrument, a great music teacher, and plenty of practice sessions. However, this “chasing perfection” thought pattern is holding you back from using the resources and skills you have now to become a better musician.
Instead, don’t idealize every step of the process. Take things as they come — you may be surprised by how well it all turns out.
2) “I’ll never be able to do that.”
Too many times we tell ourselves that despite everything we try, we’ll never be able to flawlessly play that piece, nail that audition, or impress that audience.
Naturally, some things do take more practice than others. You might have to work harder than you ever have before, but that doesn’t mean you won’t master the skill you desire at some point.
Think about something that’s ridiculously easy to you now: a skill, sport, or technique you’ve mastered. Remember when you didn’t know anything about it? When you barely even knew where to start?
Keep that in mind the next time a voice creeps in your head telling you there’s no way you’ll ever be able to do that. Time is all you need. Remember that patience and consistency are the keys to achieving whatever you want.
3) “If I mess up, ________ will happen…”
Let’s face reality — you’re going to make mistakes. We all do. To be great at what you do, you’re going to make a ton of mistakes.
Try to think about what you’re truly worried about.
Are you worried about someone laughing at you if you make a mistake? What happens if someone does laugh?
Write down what you’re afraid of if you make a misstep. Better yet — try it out! See what really happens when your fear manifests in real life. Overcoming stage fright is easier than you think!
4) “I’m not ready.”
It’s not easy failing, is it?
That’s what we’re really talking about when we say we’re “not ready” to give our skills a try. Failure is tough for every single one of us.
We’ll never be truly ready to fail, no matter how much we’ve practiced, and no matter how much we’ve prepared. Trust me, there’s no giant sign that flashes across the sky saying, “You’re absolutely 100% ready! There’s no way you’ll fail this time!”
But we do it anyway.
And with each moment, we defeat our insecurities, one shaky note at a time. We do this until we feel strong and proud, wondering why we were ever nervous in the first place.
5) “I can’t do that until…”
We spend too much time thinking about what we don’t have in order to achieve our goal. But with all the time and energy we spend worried about what we don’t have, we gloss over what we DO have.
What tools do you have now that will help you get closer to your goal? I’ll bet you can think of a few, even if they’re small: organization skills, persistence, optimism, imagination, etc.
Who can you go to for help when you’re struggling and facing unexpected challenges? Perhaps it’s a family member, a friend, or even a colleague. It’s important to know, especially for young musicians, that you have direct support when you need it.
What skills have you refined that will help you gather even better skills? Knowing one skill can help you learn another.
Use what you have now, right at this moment, to get to the next step. It’s not always easy and it’s certainly not always glamorous, but that’s how real growth happens: step by step.
6) “I’ll never be as good as him,” or “I’ll never play like her.”
Jealousy is a strong emotion.
When you doubt your own abilities, it’s easy to look at someone else’s highlight reel in comparison to your lousy dress rehearsals.
Everyone has someone they can compare themselves to. There will always be someone who began lessons before you did, performed a piece better than you played, and practiced more than you have.
The key is to measure where you are now to where you used to be — that’s a lot more satisfying. Staying motivated is a key to reducing anxiety during your practice and performance.
These destructive beliefs won’t go away overnight. It’ll take some practice to face these dangerous thoughts and eliminate them from your mind. Just know this — it’s definitely worth fighting for.
Photo by Alex Masters