Can I get some affirmation?

March 7, 2020 (transferred from WordPress)


The topic for today hits painfully close to home…but as I keep finding myself in conversations inexplicably revolving around this topic, it’s time to discuss one of the most detrimental musical motivators: affirmation.

Before I continue, affirmation in itself is not a bad thing, but it turns into an issue when used as a motivator or as the measure of success.

Here’s some examples of traps that I find myself in…

Affirmation as a motivator

  • Are you working in order to please your teacher in your next lesson?

  • Or do you treat each practice session as an opportunity to increase your musicianship through the assignment repertoire/tasks (apart from your teacher’s approval)?

  • Are you trying to please your colleagues in studio class?

  • Or are you treating the class as an opportunity to take risks and grow as a performer, regardless of the criticism you may receive?

  • Are you desperately working to win an audition?

  • Or are you treating each excerpt as an opportunity to play the most consistent and musically drawing as humanly possible?

Affirmation as the measure of success

  • Do you decide your lesson was a success if your teacher praises you, and a failure if your teacher only gives criticism?

  • Or are you keeping track of your progress enough to recognize when your music shows growth? Can you see your teacher as guiding your musical growth rather than the one determining if you are growing?

  • Do you decide your studio class performance was successful if you receive praise and unsuccessful if you receive criticism?

  • Or if you receive praise, do you trust your judgement as your teacher and keep track of the things that need improvement? And if you receive heavy criticism, yet made improvement in the performance  do you value your judgement of personal growth?

  • Do you determine that an audition was a failure if you don’t win?

  • Or do you celebrate the positive growth that you may have experienced in the audition? Or if you win the job yet the audition was not your best, do remember what needs improvement?

Now, let me just mention that in teaching ourselves we absolutely need help!!! Ask for guidance, take feedback seriously, and trust your listeners. This post in no way is meant to undermine the necessity of others in our growth, but rather to call awareness of the ways that affirmation sneakily traps our musical progress. Do not be dependent on affirmation!! Don’t let affirmation (or the lack of) change the trajectory of your musical growth.

The final thing to be weary of is waiting for affirmation. Do not wait for affirmation before working on your dream projects and goals…honestly, you probably won’t receive it…and if you do, it may be too late! Just go for things! If you are doing projects for personal growth and personal interest and aren’t dependent on affirmation, there is no real ‘failure.’

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