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How to Dismantle Performancism

Helping the classical musician let go of winning so you can make great music

My friend Geronda did something brave last night. Brave and authentic and, based on my own experiences, probably uncomfortable. Her act of courage just knocked me out of my funk. You never know how your courage will inspire another human.

Maybe you’ve noticed I’ve been MIA for months? It’s because of the funk. Because of fear and doubt. Because the old freaking gremlins got ahold of my dreams and dragged me back down.



Performancism is this term I learned, oh, probably a decade ago. It basically means that we struggle and strive and hustle to find our value through our accomplishments and achievements. Performancism was some of us found love as a kid. The straight A’s. The winning of competitions. Counting blue ribbons after swim meets. Having your hair curled or wearing cute clothes. External benchmarks that needed to be met in order for love to be offered.

Whether explicit or implicit, I was taught that I was worth what I accomplished. And the bar was so high that accomplishment meant perfection.

I know I’m not the only one.

I was listening to Brene Brown last weekend and she talked about overachieving or underachieving during times of stress. During a stressful event, the overachiever will armor up, overthink what needs to be done, and execute. The overachiever blocks out vulnerability, fear,

or anxiety with action. The underachiever will under-function. She will give up, allow others to pick up the slack, and allow the situation to drift along unsupported.

Now in this podcast, Brene was talking about these stress responses in relation to external events. Someone in the hospital, a car accident, you kiddo being bullied on the playground.

I’m interested in how these stress responses play out in relation to internal stressors.

Specifically, personal dreams.

Do you underachieve or overachieve when your heart whispers a dream?

Most of us have something we’d like to do, right? Something big like a career change or buying a house. Or maybe it’s a smaller goal like running a marathon, submitting a writing proposal to a publication, taking an audition, or creating more time for self-care.

It can be helpful to look at our responses to these desires of our hearts. Do we overachieve, expecting and executing perfection? Does our dream become another To Do, another thing not to fall short on, another chance to prove that we are, indeed, worthy?

Or do we abandon our dreams, allowing them to flutter away in the wind? Do we take the whisper of our heart and shame it away and instead choose to partner up with what is safe and known and comfortable?

There is another way.

A way that honors our dreams. A way that pursues excellence, consistency, and purpose while also allowing room for grace and imperfection.

We walk that way by removing the mantel of performancism. We choose NOT to believe that our worth is tied to our achievement. We choose to believe what is true - that we are worthy regardless of whether we succeed or fail.

And, our dreams are worthy, too. The inspiration you have? That is your’s alone. That is a gift born from what is deepest and most beautiful in you. That dream deserves space. It deserves to be honored. It deserves your effort and your time. Whether it comes true, or evolves, or gets released, give your dream the energy and effort it calls for.

Our choices become free. We don’t have to make decisions based on the fear of failing.

We can make choices based on the calling of our hearts.

There is abundance and joy. All around us.

No winning required.

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.

  1. First, check out our Personalized Mindset Tools Quiz to discover the mindset strategies perfect for YOU!

  2. Join the waiting list for my FREE mini-course, How to Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve and Calm the Heck Down.

Katie Frisco

Katie is 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.


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