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  • Writer's picturestephmdressler

No. 2: Cultivating A Positive Inner Dialogue

In the world of music performance, our internal dialogue plays a significant role in shaping our experiences and performances. The way we talk to ourselves during practice and on stage can impact our confidence, motivation, and overall enjoyment of our craft. In this blog post, we'll delve into the importance of cultivating a positive inner dialogue as musicians and explore practical tips for fostering self-encouragement over self-criticism.

The Power of Self-Talk in Music

Whether or not we’re aware of it, our thoughts have a profound effect on our emotions and behaviors. The way we speak to ourselves influences our mindset in both the practice room and on stage. While self-criticism is a necessary skill to have in music performance, negative self-talk (filled with destructive self-criticism) can create a monstrous barrier to musical growth and enjoyment. Conversely, a positive inner dialogue can foster resilience, motivation, and a much more fulfilling musical journey.

Recognizing Negative Patterns

Before we can transform our inner dialogue, it's crucial to recognize negative patterns of self-talk. Do you find yourself saying, "I always mess up this part" or "I'm not good enough" or “I am a terrible musician”? Identifying these patterns is the first step towards creating a positive shift in your mental dialogue.

Shifting Perspectives

The following are techniques I've learned (and still use!) to cultivate a positive inner dialogue:

  1. Practice Self-Compassion: Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would offer to a fellow musician facing challenges. Understand that making mistakes is a natural part of the learning process. Also keep in mind that you are not a midi machine, but a human being. :)

  2. Challenge Negative Thoughts: When negative thoughts arise, challenge them with positive and specific affirmations. For example, let’s take the phrase  "I can't do this." While it's acceptable to substitute it with a general affirmation like “I can do this,” using a more specific affirmation such as “I am making progress every day, and I will overcome this challenge,” tends to be more effective in silencing the inner critic.

  3. Focus on Progress, Not Perfection: Shifting your focus from perfection to progress involves embracing the idea that musical mastery is a journey rather than an endpoint. Celebrate the small milestones in your practice sessions—whether it's conquering a challenging passage, refining a specific technique, or staying focused for twenty minutes. By acknowledging your progress, you can cultivate a positive mindset that values growth and improvement over unattainable (!!) perfection.

  4. Integrating Positive Self-Talk Around Performance Day: Try incorporating the following affirmations before, during, or after your performance. 

    1. "I have dedicated time and effort to prepare for this performance. I trust in my preparation and am ready to showcase my hard work."

    2. "Nervous energy is a natural part of performing, and I can channel it into a dynamic and expressive performance. I welcome adrenaline as a source of energy."

    3. "Mistakes happen, and they are part of live performances. I am resilient, and I will continue to express the essence of the music even if unexpected moments arise."

    4. "Performing is an opportunity for personal growth. I celebrate the progress I've made and the continuous journey of improvement in my musical abilities."

    5. "I am grateful for the audience's presence. Their engagement enhances this shared experience, and I am thankful to have the opportunity to perform for them."

  5. Create a Supportive Environment: Surrounding yourself with positive influences is essential for maintaining a healthy and encouraging career in music. Connect with supportive peers, mentors, and friends who genuinely celebrate your musical journey. Collaborate with individuals who inspire you to improve your artistry. Building a supportive community of artist friends will provide a space for you to receive constructive feedback and a shared community to continue nurturing your passion for music.

The Impact of a Positive Inner Dialogue

As you gradually integrate a positive inner dialogue into your practice, you'll likely experience a shift in your performances and life as an artist. Setbacks and mistakes might start to feel less harrowing (woo!). Performance days, once burdened with the pressure to prove your worth as a musician, transform into opportunities for meaningful connection with others. The practice room ultimately evolves into a space where positive affirmations transfigure into artistic metamorphosis, developing into performances that resonate not just with technical prowess but with the authenticity and balanced perspective that characterize your musical expression as an artist. 

TLDR; You got this. 

Happy practicing! 

<3 Steph

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