The fear of me: how fear of ourselves might be holding us back

written by J.T. Lee, Metro Music Makers instructor

This week, I was talking to a teenage student about trying something new. He seemed pretty apprehensive about pursing a particular path in musical growth, and it got me wondering: Why? Why do so many musicians fight growth in ways that may not be the most comfortable? I think it might be because of what I like to call “the fear of me.”

It’s the idea that I’m afraid to not be great at anything I try. I’m afraid of what others will think of me. I’m afraid of how I would look if I failed, of what it would feel like to flop. In essence, I’m afraid of me, and I’m the one holding me back from growth. This is a lifelong battle we all face, and it definitely goes beyond just musical growth.

Creative types seem especially susceptible to “the fear of me.” Since most of what we do tends to be performance-based, we often take it to heart when we get negative reviews. But if we’re not careful, we can allow others’ opinions to dictate our direction in life. So what are some ways that we can overcome this fear and find new ways to push ourselves forward? Here are a few:

1. Succeed in the new simple

In order to grow, we have to try new things. In order to try new things, we have to be uncomfortable. So in order to do that, we may have to build an emotional pain tolerance. This can often be done by trying new, easy things first. Just like when we started playing our instrument, we have to learn the simple stuff first. So if you start to push yourself in a new way, start at the simplest level. If you’ve never played piano, work through a Faber book. If you’re getting into drawing, start with an entry-level class. If you want to get into a new sport, then find a coach that can help you learn the simplest mechanics of the game. Whatever your new avenue for personal growth is, start at the simplest level and find the small wins there. Then grow slowly and consistently. The more you succeed, the more you may want to try! 

2. Build a community that builds you

People may be our biggest fear antagonist, but they can also be one of the greatest aids in overcoming our fear. Having a strong community of people around you can give you a safe outlet to test new things. You may find people that are willing to join you in your new adventure, or others that have experienced it before that can lead you in the right way. You may even have people around you to help correct you when you mess up! Either way, humans weren’t made to do anything alone. Always look to find other people that will support you and encourage you, and don’t be afraid to walk away from those that won’t. Remember, communities grow and shrink, and sometime a smaller, more trusted support group may be what you need.

3. Remember who you do it for

Who are we working so hard for? Is it our audience? Is it our fans? Is it our parents, siblings, or even our boss? No. It’s for us. We grow and strive and fight for us. We work to fulfill a God-given purpose on our lives. We are each unique in our own way, and we each have a unique purpose for which we are to strive. Lean into that, and know that no one can judge you because no one else is you. You’re fighting your fear because you want to. Dig deep, and find the courage, because you deserve to succeed at anything you’re willing to fight for. I’ll never forget why I became a musician: I wanted to. And I’ll never stop, because it’s what I was made to do. I love what I do, and it’s that same conviction that will carry me into any future adventures! 

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