Accepting Your Mistakes
A couple years ago I realized that consistently after every performance I was beating myself up for all of the mistakes that I had made on the gig. Often telling the other musicians afterwards that I was “sorry” for all of the parts I messed up, regardless of how small the mistakes were and sometimes not even accepting a compliment from audience members because of how awful I felt my performance was. It took me a while, but upon further inspection of my behavior I began asking myself, “Why do I do that?”, “What do these feelings really mean about my performance?”, “What does it mean for the audience?/the other musicians?”, “Is the fact that I feel this way healthy?” I began to realize that by focusing only on myself I was completely ignoring everything else about the performance that had transpired. The connection to the other band members, to the music and to the audience. I pushed myself further “Was the overall performance bad?”, “Did it connect with people?”, “Did they take something from it?” I began to realize that if I am only worried about myself and, more specifically, my personal experience after the gig, and I don’t care about any of those other experiences than I am, in essence, making the entire performance about me! Totally disregarding how other people may have felt about the performance and what connection they may have had to the music. We’ve all had a night were we think we played very poorly and then afterward someone comes up and says how meaningful the performance was for them. Ignoring that and disregarding it or minimizing their experience by turning it back on your experience and why it wasn’t good, is selfish. You are basically saying to that audience member that they don’t know what they felt, that they”think” it was good, but obviously they didn’t understand the intricacies of your mistakes to understand why it wasn’t good. You’ve boiled down their experience to be all about you.
This was a startling revelation, because all of a sudden I began to realize that, although I initially thought that beating myself up for my mistakes was somehow extremely humble and selfless, I realized that it was the complete opposite! Making the entire performance hinge on solely my execution of a piece(s) of music means that I am only thinking about myself and I am completely disregarding the beauty of the moment, the musicians around me and the audience that might have experienced something wonderful. Further more, what am I going to do about those mistakes right away? I obviously cannot go back in time and fix them. I can make a mental note of something and make sure to diligently practice it later, but to fixate on it immediately afterward and to be so focused on it that it detracts from my interactions with the audience, other musicians, my friends and family is taking it much, much too far. Thinking only about yourself and your role during the entire performance or afterwards is potentially the most selfish thing one could do! Be mindful of your mistakes, but also accept that in those moments there is absolutely nothing you can do to change who and what you are in your development as an artist…and ultimately, no one cares as much as you do. I can guarantee that none of us became artists solely to be perfect. Besides, isn’t that constant struggle part of what makes finding your personal voice as an artist so enjoyable? I think we need to find ways to accept this process and not take every mistake so seriously. Personally, when I am able to successfully steer away from those feelings of insecurity I find myself enjoying the music (even with my mistakes) and able to be more present during and after the performance. I would argue that the most humble thing to do is to just accept who you are, accept that you are not perfect, that you still have a lot of work to do and be thankful that you have the privilege and the right to continue to pursue your art.
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