Self-confidence is a deal of many students of instrumental playing. How to trust ourselves to give as good performance as possible, make less mistakes, enjoy our playing? How much “self-confidence” is enough to stay objective to ourselves but support ourselves enough?

We are often very critical to ourselves, such as our surroundings together with teachers and parents is. We push ourselves down. Or we calm ourselves down about being good despite we know that it is not true. Both is wrong. Within this blog, we will discuss the topic from more points of view and apply it on our praxis, practice and performance.

At the very beginning, try following simple exercise:

Take a paper and pen. Divide the paper into two parts. Within one half, write down all characteristics and aspects you like on yourself, include your strongpoints,… Within the second half, write down all the aspects you do not like on yourself, you find bad or negative, your weak points,…

Now look at the paper and find out, where did you write more – the “good” or the “bad” half? Try to remember, which half was easier for you to write? On which side there is more text written? If you had problems to write down on the “good” half and there is less words, you are not probably very kind to yourself, or you may think that it is right to criticize yourself and not to commend yourself… If you have less words within the “good” half, try to write down as many good aspects of yourself so that the half will be equal.

We will be working more with this exercise more in connection with your practice, because it is very helpful fo cultivating your self-reflection, which we necessarily need for our progress..

What is and what is not self-confidence?

Many times, self-confidence is understand as pride. For many people, still, the self-confidence měna to be proud, haughty or even arrogant. Many times, we face our disability to define our strongpoints, good knowledge and skills, in order not to seem proud and look modest. This is a fiction! This kind of modesty is false and we weaken ourselves even more!

To be improving, we cannot be searching just for ” the bad”, but also accept our strongpoints to have some stable basis to lean on and build our future learning process. If we contradict, we break this stability and our learning process is becoming harder… To accept and define our strongpoint therefore asks us to be strong. If we are not able to do this, we are basically weak. So it might seem opposite now – you are NOT weak by defining the good in yourself, but strong enough to show who you are…

Yes, this is, what the self-confidence is about – to be able to face truly, who you are, but also who you are not. In Czech language we have the same word for self-confidence and self-consciousness. It might seem weird, but it is very true… Self-confidence basically IS self-consciousness! SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS Once you are conscious, aware of yourself, you become self-confident, because you know, what to expect from yourself, you are able to read your particular state and work in reality with it. You are under control and awareness of yourself, which gives you particular certainty of how you will react, how can you influence your reactions, how can you make yourself comfortable in situation, you have yourself under control. You know about your weakpoints, about your bad moods, therefore you count with them within your reality and have adequate expectations.

Mostly, we understand self-confidence as “believe in yourself” and having nothing in common with any negative aspects, any weak points. As well as we often understand self-reflection as criticism of “the bad” having nothing in common with strong points and positive aspects. Contrary, self-confidence mean much the awareness which carries everything within – the good and the bad, but specific way – not as judgments but the more as information. Take it the way that your consciousness shall not criticize or commend you, but rather inform you so that you can work further on yourself and improve.

Accepting “the good” does not mean the self-commending, but acknowledging, where did you manage to get until now as well as accepting “the bad” does not mean the self-criticism, but rather the information about what does not work and what is necessary to improve or do different way.

To stop judge yourself, try to change the world “good and bad” to “functional and non-functional”. Is this way of work, playing, behaving, functional in context of my aim and goal? Such way of informing yourself changes much – psychologically, it turns rigid and definite judgment to life material to work with and change. (You may see sometimes how certain things, judged as bad may be good in other contexts. ) Our consciousness, such as our instrumental playing is life process so perceive it such way! 🙂

Reality versus expectations.

As I already wrote, we break our self-confidence by inadequate expectations. For example, it is typical for students to expect 100% performance eat concerts from themselves although they never played the composition 100% even at class… Mostly, nobody will reach 100% at the concert without previous reaching this level… Usually, a huge disappointment and lowering self-confidence follows… A simple turning point can help, being aware of where are really am in my knowledge and ability to play this composition and expect adequate performance… You may be then surprised how much this turning point will help you be more self-confident and usually even give better performance than expected! Why is it? Because you ACCEPTED yourself kindly the way you are at that moment. This is crucial point in cultivating self-confidence – you work on yourself, but at the same time, within your work, you have to accept yourself kindly the way you are at the moment, at the level you are. If you want to improve, you need to work hard, but at the same time, accept your failures! This way of kindness and acceptance will create you comfortable and safe place inside your psyche to grow and improve.

Cultivate self-consciousness during practice!

1) When you set your daily and weekly goals, consider the reality-expectations principle to make your goals adequate! In the article “How to practice effectively II?” I already wrote the importance of your particular psychosomatic state consideration. Not just your practice time will become more effective but also your self-confidence will raise by cultivating this competence. Cultivating the ability to set your goals hand by hand with your state raises your self-confidence.

2) Next time you will practice according to previous suggestions – playing through the whole composition and making feedback of what you did not like and you want to improve, add following:

Next to writing down failures and “dislikes”, write down what you liked on your playing! Which places went really well, what did you like on them? Which qualities would you highlight on your playing? Then try to go through the notes by your eyes again and consider how much do you already know and play well from the composition. How many percent are you able to play the composition? How many percent do you need to finish to make it perfect?  If you consider just failures you will never feel happy about your playing. Even if you will play the whole composition well you will always have this feeling of fear of the “one or two mistakes” and ruining the whole composition by them. If you consider also the good, you will balance this feeling in adequate information about your progress. You will become more relaxed and motivated!

Self-supportive activity at the end!

To support your awareness of “the good”, take paper and colored pencils or fix…

Write down your first name the way that the letters goes down one under one to one column. To every letter, fill in some nice word beginning with this letter, nice word, your strong point, your good characteristics. You can then draw the letters in pictures and make a picture from the whole paper. Then put the paper, where you can see it well, for example when you wake up, or to your instrument case. Every time you open your eyes or an instrument, you will remember yourself your strongpoints and good aspects and support yourself! 🙂

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