A beautiful quote from Glennon Doyle that can help your mindset as a musician
*Welcome to The Musician's Mindset! I'm Katie, a certified life coach and flutist who helps musicians overcome performance anxiety and bring their best selves to the stage. I would love to talk to hear your stories about being a musician and what happens for you on stage. Click HERE and we’ll find some time to chat!*
These are just some of the many challenges baked into the life of a classical musician:
The disappointment of not hearing your name called to advance to the next round of the audition;
The frustration of not (yet) being able to play a tough technical passage up to tempo;
The embarrassment of cacking a note in a huge solo during a performance…
We have the privilege to encounter tough feelings every day in the practice room and on the stage. It means that we are doing brave work that we care deeply about. It means that we aren’t living small, safe lives but that we are walking into our calling of making the world more beautiful and connected through our art.
It also means that, unless we learn to handle them, these more negative emotions spiral our mood, our motivation, and our creativity into an unhealthy place. It can lead to lack of motivivation, fear of taking risks, or even abandoning our art altogether.
Many of us aren’t taught how to manage tough emotions like disappointment or embarrassment. We have automatic responses that aren’t always helpful. We may go to shaming or berating ourselves, taking our anger out on another person, or numbing with phones or alcohol.
I get it. I’ve done it all.
Feelings are for feeling. All of them. Even hard ones. The secret is that you're doing it right, and that doing it right hurts sometimes.” -Glennon Doyle
This quote was revolutionary to me. I had spent a lifetime trying to minimize my “negative” feeling, especially the ones centered around my playing. I was adept at pushing down whatever I felt and putting on a brave and friendly face to the world.
Inside I was dying. I quit making music; I quit believing I had something to say.
All because I didn’t understand that feelings are for feeling.
When musicians are able to navigate both the intense feelings after a major loss as well as the daily frustrations we experience in the practice room, we are able to move through our work with increased resilience. We understand that disappointment, frustration, and endurance are baked into our lives and that we don’t need to escape.. Those feelings mean that we are on the right track!
While there are as many strategies to feel your feelings as there are humans in this world, allow me to share a few that I have seen be helpful for myself and others over the years.
Dark thoughts like to bury themselves in our hearts. They like to sneak around, not have words put to them, and subtly sabotage your confidence and drive. Bring them into the light. Speak them to your teacher, your mom, your therapist, your best friend, your mindset coach. Even though it is scary, sharing your feelings with someone who loves you and thinks the best of you is a powerful strategy for processing your experience and preventing it from negatively affecting your goals.
Sometimes before we can process shame or embarrassment or anger, we need to move our bodies. Our feelings can get clogged up and the only way to allow them to flow freely is through physical movement. Run, walk, swim, or my kids’ current favorite: whack a tether ball with a lacrosse stick. Whatever you need to loosen up the feeling and release it from your body.
I know you are gasping in your seats that I would recommend journaling. (Have you seen my daily morning pages posts on IG stories?!) But, I know that the process of taking the abstract, dark and cloudy mush that feelings can seem like and finding words, no matter how ugly or imperfect, is how we can begin to unravel limiting beliefs or deep-seated insecurities and find our way to a more nourishing mindset.
4. Ride the wave.
When we understand that all our feelings are meant to be felt, we can accept the harder ones when they come. Rather than locking up with tension or shoving them deep down inside, we can allow ourselves to experience them. Maybe a conductor asks you to play something differently. Rather than beating yourself up, breathe and say “This is hard. I feel embarrassed.” When you accept what comes, you’re more able to move through it.
Often times our brains will translate a tough feeling into a shaming narrative out of habit. If you have noticed that when you make a mistake your brain says, “You are never going to get this right,” you can replace the thought with something you know to be true. “I am a hard worker, I have support from colleagues and teachers, and I am able to learn how to do this.”
You, my dear musician, are STRONG. You are CAPABLE. You are RESILIENT. You are 100% able to move through challenging emotions.
And if the idea of feeling your feelings with someone who has unconditional positive regard for you sounds appealing, send me a quick note and we’ll schedule a time to chat. You aren’t alone in this.
Next Steps and Additional Resources
Here at The Musician's Mindset, we have some incredible resources for developing and implementing mindset practices that will transform how you perform on stage.
Founder of The Musician's Mindset
Katie is a certified life coach dedicated to helping musicians overcome stage fright and believe in their own unique artistic voice. She believes live classical music is a powerful antidote for the division, pain, and loneliness pervasive in the culture and strives to support all artists to confidently share their work with the world. She lives in Cincinnati with her husband, three kiddos, a dog, a snake, and a goldfish named Orca.