A little nervousness can be helpful. When you think of yourself facing an audience and displaying your musical skill, what are the feelings you experience? Do doubt and anxiety make you tired and unable to concentrate?
Do you then try to convince yourself that you are learning only for personal pleasure and never really plan to perform in public? With that, you try to settle your doubts or else banish them.
Or do you visualize the opposite – you see yourself walk to the center of the stage to thunderous applause – and this before you’ve even started! Then, with the confidence of a Mohammed Ali, you see yourself doing your thing and your audience is literally bowing down in worship while you continue to scale good, better, best, and finally electrifying heights. You are not surprised, because you believe you are the best. Such is your confidence!
I would say a sweet balance between the imagined scenarios would cultivate the right spirit of the art within you.
Let me tell you that as a musician, you will discover that performing live in front of people is one of the most enchanting parts of being an artist. There is nothing quite like feeling the immediate contact and response from an audience – it can be dizzying. However, there are going to be days and moments when things do not go the way you thought and hoped they would. There may be times when you make major mistakes and this fills you with anger and frustration no one might understand.
The solution is to keep away from both – low-esteem and over-confidence. How do you do that?
Those around you need to help you with setting up your foundational attitude. My parents gave me my first guitar when I was nine. Maybe they sensed my desire of wanting to feel my way around. I had grown up in a church with exposure to church music, listening to several musicians from all over the world. I was thrilled with my guitar, picked up a lot of the art of playing by watching and learning, and thanks to a series of ad hoc teachers who would show me different chords, I would sing my heart out as I played.
Within a year, I developed the confidence to perform at school; some steps later, I took part in competitions, won some, lost the others, but all the time the foundational attitude was being crystallized. I would look at my elder sister playing the piano, after which, I tried my hand at the piano too, and discovered I picked it up very fast. I knew at that point that I needed to get into formal learning and so I did. Within three years I started leaning the drums and then the saxophone and my interest and passion in music took a completely different turn.
So I know what I am talking about when I say that you actually have a large area of control over your level of self-confidence. There are many who think that confidence is an inborn thing –you either have it or you don’t. Others will tell you that positive feedback builds confidence, and a whole lot of stuff like that. In my teen years I felt that any lack of confidence I occasionally experienced was there because I had not practiced enough.
Today, I will tell you differently. I give you a one-point programme to build up performing confidence and belief in yourself.
It’s called ‘mastering self-talk.’ Everyone has the voice within the head that is often very difficult to turn off.
Whether we want to or not, we are constantly talking to the self within us and believe every word we say to ourselves. So if you tell yourself you are not good enough, that you will fail, everybody else is better than you, and stuff like that, there will be a point at which you will confirm to yourself that you have no talent and that everyone around you is better than you.
So shush… whenever you are thinking or saying something about yourself, remember your subconscious is listening. It takes in every word you are saying, and after a point, accepts it as reality.
Change the way you talk to yourself. If you are always being harsh with yourself (“I’m no good,” or “I suck” kind of things), or whip yourself emotionally for repeating a mistake (“Why can I never get that bar right? I am so useless”) … stop doing it immediately. Do not trap yourself with the words of your mouth (“Yech, there I go and spoil it again; I will never be able to play that right”).
Instead, make your self-talk relevant, supportive, and encouraging – like “ooh, that was a nice slide, I think I can be quite awesome!”, or “come on angel, sustain it, you can do it.”
You are what you think you are; and this is how winners organize their self-talk. You are your own best friend, remember that, and you will find yourself performing – and progressing – with confidence and style.