How confident are you as a performer? Do you enter an audition or execute a performance knowing that you‘re going to do your best all throughout the routine? Or are you someone who is filled with self-doubt, anxious about how you will perform even if you haven‘t started yet?
Believe it or not, many performers fall into the latter category. Self-doubt gives an unpleasant feeling as well as a poor mindset that will set you back from achieving success on the stage.
Misconceptions about Self-Confidence and Success
Self-confidence can be improved, contrary to what others believe. Some think that confidence is an inherent ability that you can‘t change; either you have it in you or you don‘t.
People think that only positive feedback and continuous success can pave the way into building one‘s confidence. Mistakes and failure have no room or value in establishing self-confidence.
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Maybe if you practice your craft more, you‘ll be able to build up confidence, right? It turns out this is another misconception. Practice doesn‘t necessarily increase your confidence.
The aim of practice is mastery. But look at the number of proficient musicians who still experience self-doubt. They still face a lot of insecurities despite being masterful and successful in their crafts.
How come that there are musicians who aren‘t that talented and yet they‘re experiencing success in their field? The simple answer is that they never doubted their capacities even a bit.
So, what‘s really the recipe to become more self-confident as a performer?
Self-talk is one of the secrets to boosting your confidence as a performer.
Psychologists describe self-talk as the process of having an internal dialogue with ourselves. We may be doing a little of self-talk every now and then without noticing it.
When we bump our toe on something hard and we call ourselves idiot, when we come back home from shopping and then realizing how stupid we are to forget to buy the actual thing we went shopping for ‘ these are all examples of self-talking.
Self-talk can manifest by either mumbling to ourselves or talk out loud what we‘re thinking. Either way, self-talk is that voice inside our head which we have trouble turning off.
Our minds have the power to make us believe in the things we think of and say to ourselves. If you constantly think that you‘re a failure, you‘ll indeed be a failure. You will feel like a failure, act like a failure, and do everything to sabotage yourself to prove you‘re nothing but a failure.
The opposite is true. If you think you‘re a winner, you‘ll build the confidence to affirm your success in your craft as a performer.
The Power of the Subconscious
Your subconscious is always on, listening to every little thing you think of, even your self-talk. The most repeated messages and thoughts we run through our brains become accepted as reality, regardless whether it‘s the truth or just made up.
What you believe in, whether it‘s just a joke or half-meant, is absorbed by your subconscious. Our subconscious takes things literally without any filter. So, if you believe in yourself and have confidence in what you do, your subconscious will accept that as the truth.
The subconscious is like a computer. It doesn‘t do anything else other than what it‘s told to do.
When you‘re playing an instrument and the thought that you‘ll never be able to play the piece well crosses your mind, your subconscious records this. It doesn‘t care if you lack the ability to really play the piece well, or you need to spend more time on practice, or you‘re just looking for an excuse to not do your best.
All these thoughts show half-heartedness on what you‘re doing and your subconscious will pick this up. You‘ll start practicing less and you‘ll give up too easily because you‘ve decided that you‘ll never be better at it anyway. As time passes, you‘ll notice that you‘re really having a hard time mastering the piece because all you did was sabotage yourself by limiting what you can do. You‘re more focused on proving yourself right that you‘ll not able to do it, rather than changing your attitude to move past your limits.
If you want to feel more confident, you have to act and be confident. To do this, you must first control your mind and start thinking how a confident person thinks. But how do you do this? Most of us may not be aware of it, but we can alter our self-talk process by determining how we think.
Identifying Your Self-Talk Process
Most of the time, the thoughts you generate when under pressure are unhelpful to the situation. Oftentimes, they‘re irrelevant to the situation you‘re in. It may go along the lines of ‘What should I have for dinner?‘, ‘Should I move my fingers around?‘, ‘Does my posture look too tight?‘, or ‘I made a mistake. I‘ll screw the whole presentation‘. These thoughts may range from nonsensical to over-analytical, to self-destructive. All of these are unnecessary self-talk.
Our brains have a limited attention span. We can only focus on a limited number of things at one time. Ask your partner if they think you‘re listening to their story while you‘re watching TV. You‘ve struck gold if your partner thinks you do.
Knowing this, we can decide whether to fill our heads with helpful or irrelevant stuff. Similar to how you budget your money, you wouldn‘t want to waste the limited space your brain allocates by thinking about useless things.
Use the limited amount your brain has on thoughts that help build confidence and reinforce success. Leave no room for thoughts that are self-destructive and beliefs that promote failure. There is no middle ground in this situation, much similar to how there‘s no neutral purchase when using your money. You either get something you badly want or you leave it alone and zap away regrets of not getting it.
Keeping your mind from developing self-destructive thoughts is no easy feat. The first step you should take to reprogram your mindset is to identify the thoughts you want to be programmed into your brain.
Creating a Self-Talk Log
It‘s possible to create a journal of your self-talk to identify your thought process. Follow the steps below on how to create your own self-talk log.
- Pick a challenging piece you‘re working with.
- Record your performance.
- Play for around 5 minutes. When you‘re thinking about something, take a pause and say out loud what you‘re thinking in verbatim. This way, the recording device will capture your thoughts for playback purposes.
- After you finish practicing, get a notebook and draw a line in the middle of the page. Transcribe all the thoughts you‘ve recorded on the left-hand side of the line.
Now, take a good look at what you wrote in the notebook. Count how many thoughts you‘ve generated throughout the 5-min practice session.
Which of them are distracting, critical, self-destructive, irrelevant, insulting, and unsupportive? Which of them showed how you attack yourself? Which thoughts keep you rooted in the moment and which of them show lingering on the mistakes you‘ve done? Are they pertaining to the same mistake you‘ve done in the past? Did you have thoughts that projected your negative thinking in the present to a future instance?
On the other hand, look for thoughts that are supportive of your goal of becoming a more confident performer. Which thoughts show how you praised yourself for doing the right thing at the right time?
Look at the interval of how they came to your mind. Were they too far apart? Were they too infrequent?
These questions will show how you think. Once you‘ve identified which can be reinforced and which can be replaced, it‘s time to improve your subconscious thinking for the better.
Changing Your Self-Talk Behavior
Now that you know how your mind works, you can create thinking patterns that reinforce confidence and boost your winning attitude.
Take a look at the self-sabotaging thoughts you‘ve made. Most of the time, these thoughts refer to past instances or future scenarios, both of which you don‘t have any control at the moment. These failure-type thoughts are counterproductive since all they do is make you feel bad about yourself.
Look at each one of the negative thoughts you‘ve made. On the right-hand side of the paper, create a more supportive and constructive version of the negative thoughts that crossed your mind. Below are some examples of how you can do this activity.
Practicing is futile. Other people are just more talented than I am and I can‘t do anything about that.
Equivalent success-type thought
Successful people worked their way up to experience the level of success they‘re enjoying now. All successful people say that only 1% of success stems from inspiration. The other 99% is made from perspiration and grit. They wouldn‘t say this if there‘s no truth to it.
Here‘s another example of how you can change failure-type thoughts into a more positive one:
@()$%&##! Why do I mess up on that passage? I‘m really a screw-up!
Equivalent success-type thought
Take it easy. Even the best performers make mistakes. What you need to do is move on from your mistake and focus on what you‘re doing now. There‘s plenty of time to study what went wrong after you‘re done practicing.
The success-type thoughts may seem corny or even fake but this will help shift your attitude into a more positive one. Continue doing this and you‘ll develop a mindset geared towards success and this will help to gradually build your self-confidence.
When you get used to this self-talk process, you‘ll be able to easily overwrite failure-type thoughts with more helpful ones that will get you closer to your goals.
Barbara Frederickson, a known social psychologist, wrote about her research on how people who have a 3:1 ratio of positive to negative emotions, tend to be more resilient against adversity and difficulties. They‘re able to achieve things that used to be just part of their dreams and imagination.
Now you know how successful people and winners think. You know what to do. Start by becoming more aware of how you self-talk and determine how your mind perceives failure-type thoughts. Once you‘ve mastered your mind, you‘ll be able to perform with better confidence than before.