When your confidence doesn’t match your musical talent, here are three steps to help.
As I’ve been coming up with ideas for what to write about in these articles, I’ve been confronted with the task of logging my areas of expertise. Memes and musical youtube channels are certainly on the list, as is the subject of this article; being confident. Confidence is a cornerstone of success and without a strong, confident foundation, it’s difficult to be a performing musician.
I am far from the best musician I know, but it is quite possible I am the most confident musician I know. Some of my closest friends are obscenely talented musicians who don’t feel good about their playing, and it bums me out. As I’ve watched my friends struggle with insecurity and self doubt, I’ve thought long and hard about how my confidence developed, and how I can help others strengthen theirs.
Here are three steps you can take to increase your confidence.
Make a SWUE chart
SWUE stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, and Unique Experiences. These three categories are the pillars of your confidence. The importance of strengths and weaknesses is clear, and no doubt you’ve considered the strengths and weaknesses of your playing and composing before. But equally as important are all of the unique experiences you’ve had in your lifetime. Confidence doesn’t only come from knowledge of your abilities and flaws, but also from understanding your originality. Here is what my chart would look like.
Make sure you actually take the time to write your chart down! If you simply think about your strengths, weaknesses, and unique experiences instead of committing them to writing, you won’t be receiving the full benefit of the exercise.
Think of yourself as a student, not as a master
Thinking of yourself as a master is one of the easiest ways to cripple your confidence. To a master, a mistake is a glaring flaw, to a student, a mistake is a tool. If you base your identity around the habits that help you improve your skills, instead of the techniques you’re good at, not only will you progress more quickly, but you’ll be more comfortable with your weaknesses. This student mindset has a lot to do with setting process goals rather than outcome goals for yourself as a musician. Do your best to take pride in the traits which helped you accomplish something, rather than the accomplishment itself.
Spend time getting good at things other than music
Confidence is holistic, and doesn’t come from a singular area of your life. If you’re only good at music, you’re not going to be a confident musician because you’re going to be using music to makeup for other insecurities. If you spend time developing non-musical skills, you’ll find your musical confidence will grow tremendously. The more things you become good at, the less dependent your identity is on any one aspect of your life. A spread identity grants you a lot of freedom; it allows you to take criticism less personally, it allows you to avoid feeling like a failure, and it makes it easier to be objective. It may sound counterintuitive, but becoming a good cook, or getting in shape, or skateboarding, or designing clothes will make you a stronger, more confident musician.
Jacob Unterreiner is from Phoenix, Arizona. Around the valley, Jacob is known for three things; his musicianship, his strange habit of wearing the same eleven shirts he’s had since middle school, and a strict 10:00 PM curfew that he adheres to religiously in order to maintain his sanity as a high school English teacher.