July 20, 2023

A letter to musicians struggling with self-criticism and imposter syndrome

It is so easy to compare yourself to other people. Especially now with the huge impact that social media has had on the music industry.

As artists and musicians, we can be notoriously critical of ourselves; it comes with the territory of being a creative who is striving to make amazing work. Many artists are their own worst critic despite making great strides. Self-critical thoughts can restrict creative work, impact how the music sounds, worsen writer’s block, and even harm our drive. It is so easy to compare yourself to other people. Especially now with the huge impact that social media has had on the music industry. These platforms make it possible to share music with the world, but they also open you up to the world’s many opinions. Many amazing singers and instrumentalists never start composing or performing because of the fear of failure and low self-esteem.

But don’t worry, while we acknowledge that this can be a challenge – it isn’t permanent. You can grow through these challenges by making sure your own thoughts and inner monologue are kind. This isn’t self-help, it is focusing on life-giving thoughts and speaking life to your situation internally. Sometimes, being overly self-critical and giving in to that negative inner voice in your mind can have harmful effects and that’s why scripture says “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8). Listening to sources of inspiration, people with wisdom and good counsel, and more can help us manage negativity by focusing on the positive. This helps us stay grounded to the call that inspired us in the first place and can help us grow through that anxiety and stress. With good advice and wise counsel come new tools and good ideas to advance your career and reach your potential. Be careful to guard against excessive self-criticism and negative self-talk over time as it can lead to feelings of worthlessness and cause mental health to decline. It is important to have strong support around you when you’re feeling this way, confiding in a good friend, relieving stress through healthy activities, spending time in prayer, and paying close attention to moments where a critical voice finds its way to your inner dialogue are all important ways to reset.

So how do we identify good sources of inspiration? Well, first keep in mind that prayer and musical discovery can work wonders. Also, constructive criticism is an important part of any artist's journey but be careful who you receive that feedback from. Who has obtained your definition of success in their own lives? Who is where you want to be in their career? Who is currently doing what you hope one day to do? Mentors, teachers, and coaches can all provide valuable advice that can guide you in the right direction for your goals and encourage your personal growth. Seeking and engaging in mentorship can be a valuable resource. Especially those who have experienced the music industry in ways you haven’t yet. They can give you a new perspective, help you see a bigger picture, and help you navigate your unrealistic expectations when you’re first starting out. Having high standards as an artist is a good thing! As you get better at your craft you will expect more from yourself and your art. Having high standards is not the same thing as being a harsh inner critic. To help filter out the noise only consider feedback from reliable sources and consider the effect of those voices; do they speak life into your situation and encourage you or do they discourage you and inspire further anxiety? Everyone has an opinion, but not everyone's opinions are relevant or helpful to your path so before allowing something to impact you too deeply, consider the source and the effect.

As you grow as a musician learn to trust yourself and your talents. You’ve spent time and effort learning and honing your craft; trust that training and continue adding to it. The worst thing that can happen with a cycle of self-criticism is that it can paralyze you, so you never begin the journey. Mistakes and failures are inevitable and are also a natural part of any career, but you can overcome the challenges you may face. It’s important to not let those failures dwell in your mind for too long and become stumbling blocks to future success. Instead, once you’ve taken time to mentally and creatively recover, slowly breakdown your poor experiences gently and constructively. Examining why failures happen can actually give you the wisdom to know what to do differently the next time.  

Remember that your career in music is a continuous journey. You will always be growing as a musician, learning more about the industry, and developing your musical skills as you grow as an artist. Keep your support system close, let the mean unwanted comments slide off your back and keep creating. The more you practice your skills the more self-confidence and self-esteem you will gain. Creating great music is not about perfection but progress and discovery, lean into your purpose and remind yourself why you love music, performance, and/or writing. It is important for the longevity of your career to continuously connect to the “why” behind your work. Ground yourself in the present moment, take a deep breath and begin again.

At Visible Music College you will gain the experience and skills needed to catapult you into your music career. Check out all that Visible has to offer here: https://visible.edu/bachelors-music-business/

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