A New Year! A New You! Discovering the Fundamental Aspects of Ourselves to Become a More Confident, Assertive and Authentic Musician by Kerri Edelman
With the passing of another year, many artists often reflect back on what has occurred over their careers in the past year. This reflection may be to see if we pleased those around us (e.g., managers, labels, etc), did we accomplish the goals we set and if we did not, what went awry in the process. Reflecting back on the past is a positive thing and learning from our experiences (or the experiences of others) about what went right or did not can provide useful information; so that we can modify what direction we take our music in the future.
But, as artists, we sometimes along the way forget to consider some of the fundamentally core aspects of ourselves that are essential in our development and growth as musicians. Uncovering and developing these basic yet necessary concepts is very individualized as different artists may find that only some apply whereas others may feel that they are all applicable. The following core concepts may also be impacted by where the artists are in their career path as an established, seasoned musician may have a more solid foundation in these areas. Nevertheless, the goal is to assist musicians with being mindful of these as not being aware of what provides us with a basic sense of well-being can make getting involved in the music and entertainment industry even more difficult and challenging.
Confidence is described as a feeling or consciousness of one’s powers or reliance on one’s circumstances. It is also the belief that one will act in a right, proper or effective way. Confidence should not be confused with arrogance or narcissism. A confident artist is able to calmly carry oneself in a humble manner without boasting about how great one is, displaying extreme forms of egocentricity, exhibiting rashness or making others feel less important. As an artist, it is important to be self-assured and believe in one’s abilities. However, developing self-confidence takes time, comes with experience in the industry and is often impacted by how one was treated (or mistreated in the past). There are many ways to improve our self-confidence which include finding seasoned musicians to serve as positive mentors, using positive, constructive feedback to further develop one’s skills and immersing oneself to learn about the industry by reading about it, getting involved with assisting other artists and befriending others with similar goals, to name a few. Nonetheless, it will be difficult to build self-confidence and improve one’s self-esteem, if an artist regularly surrounds oneself with negative/critical musicians who bring one down, don’t believe in one’s abilities or take their own problems out on the artist. This leads into the next core concept of becoming assertive.
Assertiveness is described as being confident in claiming one’s rights or putting forward one’s views. Being assertive does not mean being aggressive where in one intimidates or becomes hostile/destructive in a verbal or physical manner towards another. It is the ability for the artist to clearly communicate and convey what is in their comfort zone. It is all too often that artists will encounter those in the music industry who put demands on them that they may not feel comfortable carrying out. When an artist is confident and self-assured in one’s ability to make a rational decision, the artist will take an assertive stance and communicate what the artist believes is in their best interest. Again, being assertive is something that takes time and does not always feel good (as who wants to potentially make someone upset or angry), but it is essential to survive in the industry. With the development of self-confidence, one will feel more comfortable being assertive. Lacking self-confidence and an inability to be assertive often leads to the artist being taken advantage of where one becomes a puppet who’s every move and decision is dictated by that of another.
Patience is defined as the ability to deal with provocation, annoyance, misfortune or pain without complaint, loss of temper or irritation. The classic example of learning to deal with patience is the artist who has worked extremely hard to put out an album and because of one’s professionalism, perseverance and dedication believes that one should be signed to a major label and out on the road touring with a solid music career in a short period of time. Unfortunately, as it was previously discussed in the last article on ‘Self-Promotion in the Music Industry,’ our best thought out plans may not succeed. This is likely because of how the industry has changed and many artists are trying to climb up this never-ending mountain on their own. To assist in establishing oneself as an artist, one should start with the following, to name a few: set short-term goals that one can accomplish such as getting a song on an internet radio station, locating indie films that are looking for music placement and using social networking sites to promote your music so that others can hear it. Many artists can relate to and empathize with how it is not easy to be patient, but it’s important to take pride in whatever accomplishments one makes as that will assist with developing one’s self-confidence and becoming assertive as one begins to recognize their capabilities.
Maintain a Healthy Sense of Paranoia
Paranoia is defined as a tendency on the part of an individual toward excessive or irrational suspiciousness and distrustfulness of others. This term is not be used in a negative fashion, but rather for the artist to develop what is sometimes termed ‘Healthy Paranoia.’ How many times has an artist been made promises by others such as ‘I’ll get your music on a radio station’ and ‘Give me X amount of dollars and I’ll help you get signed to a record label, get you major management or get your music in front of the right people,’ for example. Developing a healthy sense of paranoia is the ability for the artist to remain logical, grounded and realistic with a subtle sense of suspiciousness when these types of promises are made. It is not to say that these things can’t happen, but it is all too often that artists put too much trust into others to only be misguided, let down or worse, lose a lot of money in the process when they are scammed by others. Having the former happen (where one is offered things by others that don’t come to fruition) is not necessarily a bad thing as it teaches the artist the importance of a strong work ethic, how challenging the industry is and that being skeptical about what others say can prevent bigger mistakes from happening (such as forking over a ton of cash and getting nothing in return).
Master Cognitive Reframing
Cognitive Reframing is defined as taking a situation or particular circumstance and changing the meaning you’ve ascribed to it. Learning to develop this type of a skill can be particularly useful in the music and entertainment industry. It is not unlikely that when an artist hears something not so positive about their music, that one will tend to personalize the comment and believe it has to do with one’s performance. For example, say an unsigned artist passes along their music to a radio station (and actually hears back from them as this is a rarity when the station is receiving 100’s of 1000’s of albums) and is informed that the station is not interested. In most situations, the artist is likely to be inclined to think that their music is not good enough or one is not a good performer. Cognitive reframing works by the artist instead taking the disinterest from the station and telling oneself that their music is possibly not the right fit for the format, it may have been not the musical taste of the person who listened to it or it’s possible that this is a generic response given to all unsigned artists and the station never even took a moment to listen to it. The goal here is for the artist to not always assume the worst and to assist with restructuring how one thinks about situations so as not to negatively impact our self-confidence. Once an artist gets the hang of using this technique, it is invaluable and can be used in many aspects of one’s life.
Time-Out is defined as a brief suspension of activity, intermission or break. Most artists have probably heard this psychological term used with younger children who are not following directions and are asked to ‘take a time-out’ by removing oneself to a quiet area for a specific period of time in order to reflect on the reasons for their ‘time-out.’ When an artist is constantly on the go, maintaining a full-time job and trying to handle every aspect of their career on their own including managing a band, booking shows, promoting the album, maintaining various websites, etc., it can become daunting, draining, one can lose patience and mental burn-out (not related to drugs) can set in. Taking a time-out can be a positive task for an artist as it allows one to take a break and reflect on what has or has not been working. During this mental break, take time to do other things one enjoys, make a list evaluating the pro’s and con’s of one’s musical endeavors and spend time with those who are supportive of one’s music career.
Maintain a Support System
A support system is defined as a network of people who provide an individual with practical and emotional support. It is not uncommon for artists to become so immersed in their musical endeavors that they have lapses in their attention and periodically forget about staying in contact with friends, family and other meaningful persons in their lives. On the other hand, it is also not uncommon for artists to become involved with a group of individuals who are negative, critical and unsupportive of their musical endeavors. Getting involved in music and entertainment can be an extremely difficult and challenging industry, which leaves artists questioning the likelihood of their success when the odds are stacked against them. Having a support system of encouraging and understanding people who are meaningful to one is essential for an artist who plans to keep pressing forward. Artists will often hear many no’s, critical feedback and experience letdowns in the industry, which is why keeping those who are supportive close to them can help foster and further develop the artist’s self esteem, assertiveness and ability to maintain a sense of patience.
Kerri Edelman, Psy.D. is a Clinical Psychologist, Freelance Writer and Modern Rock Solo Artist. For more information on Kerri Edelman and her music, please visit www.myspace.com/kerriedelman