The Greatest Gift of All

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As a (now recovering) perfectionist, my self-talk surrounding my learning, practicing, performing, and general living has long been focused on what I can do better. 

 

"Yeah, that high note came out, but it wasn't as vibrant as it could be." "If you'd taken a little deeper breath, you could have sustained that note till the end." "Your daughter would whine less if you could be more patient." "You'd feel better if you'd sleep more." Sound familiar?

And these are the nicer comments that I've softened to over time.

They used to be: "Why do you think you can sing, moron?"  "Nobody's ever going to hire you to open your mouth." "You're not worth anything as a musician if you're not performing all over the world." "Your students only like you because you're nice, anyone could teach them to open their mouths."  ...

Ouch.

Where do we learn to be so mean to ourselves?

It's probably different for everyone.  But as artists, I think we're particularly susceptible to such negativity because our whole learning system is based on critique.  We actually pay people, repeatedly, to tell us what we're doing wrong.  To my engineer husband, this is seriously messed up!

Yes, it's with the intention of improving and living our dreams, but still.  Our mistakes are continuously and constantly pointed out to us, sometimes with love and growth, other times not.  I know of some teachers who make it their mission to 'toughen you up' by being intentionally harsh.

It's enough to make our Inner Artist, the creative spirit that wants to play and explore and knows best how to lead us, run for the hills.

So in the interest of coaxing that Inner Artist back and bringing healing to our Spirit, I present the best gift of all this holiday season:

Self-compassion.

According to Merriam-Webster online, compassion is "sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it".  Self-compassion, then, is turning that same consciousness and desire to alleviate pain to yourself.

Self-compassion is changing your self-talk to words of encouragement, acceptance, and acknowledgement.  It is noticing when you're criticizing yourself and instead of calling yourself 'moron' or 'worthless', you recognize what you're doing right, first, then move forward with positive changes because you want to take better care of yourself.  It is moving from judgement to analysis - in the practice room, pre- and post-performance, and in your day-to-day life.


As I continue on my own journey, it sounds like: 

"You rocked that third passage!  We'll keep working to polish the final phrase." "Your daughter is such a beautiful soul, congratulations, mommy!  Keep building your patience to get through these toddler years." "You had a rough day yesterday and snapped at your hubby, let's go meditate and do something nice for you and then you can apologize."

Self-compassion is about becoming your own ally, your own loving parent/teacher, in a way.  And you may find, just as a child who is hugged and heard when upset instead of criticized and chastised, that your spirit, and your art, starts to blossom.

To move toward self-compassion in 3 steps:

1) Notice the negativity (and please don't judge yourself when you hear it inside your head!) 2) Find something you did right/well 3) Problem solve and analyze.  How can you learn from the mistake instead of beating yourself up or calling yourself names over it?  What specific action can you take to improve?

Happy Holidays!

Please comment below!  I'd love to hear what negative things you catch yourself saying to yourself and how you can or have transformed them to be more compassionate.