Sometimes when I play a show with other bands - and these bands are amazing, well-rehearsed, and seemingly superior - I get hit with an overwhelming insecurity: that I may not be good enough to get onstage and perform. I find myself contradicting my own worldview; I often say that individuality and uniqueness is what makes the human condition so very fascinating, but then I compare myself to other's unique projects and allow myself to sink into the pity party of inferiority. If a band onstage holds the crowd's attention with catchy melodies and upbeat covers, I find myself scrambling to change my setlist of melancholy originals to well-known cover songs (not that I even know many well-known cover songs, but you get the point).
Why is this? I never watch a band do their thing and criticize - rather, quite the opposite. I love when a band is unprecedented and stands out to me. I respect and even feel inspired by it. So why should I be any different? Why do I let myself doubt my own abilities and lyrics when I am constantly appreciating the abilities and lyrics of artists who are different than me?
I have this weird guilt complex when I play sad songs at a happy show. Like, who do I think I am to make everyone sad when they're just trying to be happy...
Although, I don't necessarily become sad when I listen to sad songs. I honestly feel a sense of relief with the knowledge that others experience similar sentiments as I.
My feelings of doubt only affect my performance if I let them. It becomes a matter of discipline - the constant game of keeping my mind in the moment, rather than feeding off of an insecure energy that may or may not be justified. Even if the audience absolutely hates me, it should not matter. The best piece of advice I have ever gotten came from a musical mentor a few years back, and it was, "perform the same show every single night, no matter the crowd or any extenuating factors." Every time I let my feelings get the best of me, I attempt to return to this mantra. I can usually get myself out of the wormhole of panic using these kind of simplistic reassurances, but there have been a few sets during which I've thought of little but how much the audience must detest my music. The funny thing? All the times this has happened, I come offstage only to be greeted with positivity and well wishes from those watching.
I want to clarify something: I am aware that there have certainly been people at my shows that haven't loved or even liked me, and that's perfectly cool. To be liked by everyone is an unattainable goal - there will always be those who prefer a different style or quite frankly dislike you. But that does not change the fact that during a show, my job is to be in the moment and give the best performance that I possibly can; hence, negative thoughts swirling inside my head are entirely unnecessary. I look at things objectively by asking if the concept in question is aiding or guiding me closer towards what I strive to be - and this practice of self-deprecation is only leading my further astray. Once I came to this realization, I wondered if I was the only one struggling with it, only to remember that we live in a digitized world feeding off individual's needs to prove their worth to society through the comparison game...I realized that everyone must struggle with insecurity in at least one area of their life, if not several.
So, I leave you with this idea: locate your insecurity(ies) and challenge it. Evaluate whether it is helpful to you, and if it isn't, burn it off with a torch. Not literally. Figuratively, you know. Us writers tend to be a metaphoric bunch.
Til next time ~