February 20, 2013

Whisper down the shout

Sandy Grason said, "Your inner wisdom whispers, your inner critic SHOUTS" (my emphasis).  It has been my experience that she is correct.

Especially when it comes to our music.  We know a large number of people who play better than we do.  And if we are adults who came to the harp in adulthood, many of them are still children!
Unfortunately, we let that shouting inner critic get in our way.  We can’t even discern the whispering wisdom – we are too caught up in swooning to the poison of the critic.  We focus on every “mistake”, every “failure”, every variance.  We note how the “real” harpers never make mistakes, have stunning repertoires, and can play any tune.
It is too bad that we are so focused on ourselves.  We typically are so caught up in our fear that someone else will be better than us that we don’t really listen to those that we idolize.  We don’t recognize that the “real” harpers:
  1. make mistakes when playing
  2. are learning tunes
  3. are sometimes chagrined when they are not having a good day (my experience has been that this is especially highlighted when teaching!)
  4. may also be feeling this same way - and with much more at stake!
So, if you find that you are listening to the stupid shouting rather than the wise whispering you can take action to change.  There are only a few things you must do:
  • Pretend the critic is talking about your friend, mother, spouse – wouldn’t you tell that critic to stop and start listing all the reasons they are wrong?  Of course you would!  The critic only has the power you grant – therefore if you defend yourself vigorously, the critic will recede.
  • Do not compare yourself to others – only to yourself.  I suggest that my students make a recording annually (usually at the New Year).  The idea is to record what they are doing at that point in time – playing whatever they happen to be working on.  They periodically go back and listen to the recording in its entirety so they can hear for themselves how much they have improved.  They can compare themselves to their previous performance – the only comparison that matters!
  • Listen to others – I guarantee you that only the meanest of people would seek you out to deliver a cutting critique.  When people hear you play and tell you how much they enjoyed your playing, when a respected teacher tells you what a good job you’ve done, when someone asks you to play – they are being honest!!! Believe them and enjoy knowing you’ve done well.
Listen carefully – and the whisper will grow louder!

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