At one stage or another, all musicians experience self-doubt. Even the greatest performers and artists doubt themselves from time to time. If you’re questioning your own abilities as a musician, you are not alone.
The effects of self-doubt can be devastating. However, the biggest tragedy is when songwriters and musicians experience bouts of self-doubt and lose touch with their biggest passion.
I’ve seen musicians contemplating giving up out of fears of not being good enough, or translating a lack of perceived industry success into being deemed a failure.
William Shakespeare famously stated, “our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” This quote rings especially true for musical artists.
Fear not, because, in this article, I’ll share some effective ways in which you can defeat self-doubt in order to regain confidence in yourself as a musician, meaning you can feel happier, inspired, and more satisfied with your efforts. Read on!
Why is Self-Confidence Important for Musicians?
There are many reasons why it’s crucial for musicians to have self-confidence. Here are some ways in which it can positively impact emotional well-being and musical ambition.
- It invigorates the fighting spirit - a self-confident attitude can help musicians to better overcome obstacles. It’ll motivate you when times get tough and provide the self-belief to adapt and come out stronger.
- It’ll help you to improve - having self-confidence will enable you to explore new ideas and try new things without fear of failure. Being brave and pushing yourself as a musician is important for learning and self-development.
- It’ll allow you to communicate your message - only you can share your vision and deliver your message through music. It’s an important form of self-expression and you deserve to be able to share it with others without doubting yourself.
- You will feel happier and empowered - greater self-confidence can improve your overall self-worth and can offer greater peace of mind. In addition, you’ll be more likely to approach new challenges with a positive mindset and feel better equipped to reach your goals.
Top Tips for Defeating Self-Doubt as a Musician
1. Stop comparing yourself to others
It’s tough not to compare yourself to others, especially in the music industry. The music business uses quantifiable metrics like streams and likes to measure success. But ultimately, music as an art form extends beyond the business aspect.
Being an artist means being an authentic version of yourself. It’s not about being a carbon copy of someone else. We are all completely different people with our own ideas, talents, and quirks that make us unique.
Every musician has a very individual personality comprised of personal tastes, skills, and preferences that mold them into the type of musician they are. No musician has the same identical characteristics as any other artist or person on the planet.
So remember that while there are always going to be others who are more technically gifted or productive than you, embrace your originality because it’s what makes you awesome.
2. Realize not everything you do is going to be perfect
In music, not every risk you take is going to pay off. Whether it’s experimenting with new sounds or building your artist brand, risks are inherent in music. Yet, it’s only through trying new things that we can hone in on what feels right and what seems to be working.
While it’s important to build your foundations correctly, there isn’t any point in stressing and being self-critical about absolutely everything. The chances are you’re going to look back and wish you did some things differently further down the line, regardless.
In fact, it’s common you hear famous musicians look back at their first efforts, such as early EPs and albums, and admire them in some ways but absolutely hate them in others! It’s all a part of the learning process.
Seeing room for improvement means you are on the right track and progressing. And of course, you can continue to improve and perfect your art as time goes on.
Leading us neatly onto the next point…
3. Remember that Ideas and tastes naturally develop over time
Development is the natural path through exploration and experimentation. We naturally mature as artists, and the output will continue to reflect that. After all, individual tastes and ideas will always transform with time.
It may not be obvious from an individual perspective, but all of the effort put into progressing and improving, whether through rehearsing or spending time crafting songs, is furthering your skillset.
It may be difficult to see your progress when it comes to the bigger picture. But there are things you can do to notice improvement over time and help shrink self-doubt.
I like to record and film drum covers. I am able to listen back objectively, and I can generally see some progression, as well as discover new ways I can potentially play a part better, or simply improve on the drums.
Monitoring progress provides the mind with evidence as to why it should ignore the inner critic and not buy into the false narrative of the self-doubting mind.
4. Learn to trust yourself and your abilities
Musicians struggling with self-confidence and issues of self-doubt tend to talk about themselves in a critical and harsh way. Statements like “I’m not making any progress,” or “that drum fill was terrible,” are the type of negative comments that chip away at inner confidence.
Something you should ask yourself is: would a good friend talk to you this way? Would a close friend tell you that you suck? The answer is no. Therefore, try to be kinder to yourself like a friend would be. And if you feel like you need to talk to a friend, then do!
This type of negative thinking isn’t actually going to make your playing or writing any better.
If you rehearse sufficiently, you have a quiet, innermost confidence that already exists without you needing to find it. When we rehearse we build muscle memory through repetition, and this is totally instinctive.
With this knowledge, you can enjoy yourself on stage or in the recording studio knowing you already know exactly how to play well, without needing to actually think about what to do.
I learned this from Timothy Gallwey’s book titled The Inner Game of Tennis. It’s a revolutionary book that recognizes that trying too hard is counterproductive.
5. Don’t be afraid of criticism from others
Remember that music at its core is subjective. There are always going to be haters, trolls, and people who just generally get a kick out of passing harsh judgment - especially online.
The fact is, not everyone is going to like an artist’s music. Even the biggest artists on the planet have detractors and those who dislike their music. It’s inevitable. If you can accept that, you can continue pursuing your craft with bravery and without being afraid of criticism.
Instead of listening to criticism, focus on the positives in what you do. Even the most self-critical of musicians realize their worth and can recognize their accomplishments.
Being proud (not arrogant) of your efforts and accomplishments can instill self-confidence and feelings of contentment. And also gratitude, which is important for emotional regulation.
By focusing on the positives instead of the comparisons, self-doubts, or stresses, you’ll be reminded of the joy you have with music. Whether performing, writing, or rehearsing, you have great potential to make yourself and others happy.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article and found some of this advice resonates with you. If you feel like the internal criticisms or comparisons are getting too much, there’s no harm in reaching out to friends or others that support you!
You can also try to go offline from social media or spend some time outdoors. I find that helps me creatively, as I often return feeling motivated and inspired.
Thanks for reading!
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Gideon Waxman is a London based drummer and music educator, who holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Westminster. You can find more of his advice over at Drum Helper - one of the web's most popular free online drumming resources.
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