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How to Handle a Bruised Ego

First seen on my Patreon.

Musicians have to walk a careful line. On the one hand, it takes a certain amount of ego to believe that you can and should get up and perform regularly. On the other hand, the ego is a terribly fragile organ, easily bruised when watching performances by, say, someone two years younger but much more accomplished than yourself. It stings, and that’s okay. Here’s how to handle having your ego bruised (or worse).

Remember that everyone has a different background. No two people are going to have the same number of years of experience. They won’t have had the same teachers, the same opportunities, or the same amount of drive or base ability. That freshman that just blew you away may have practiced an hour a day more than you, for years longer than you have, to get to where they are now. Meanwhile, you’re infinitely better than every person who’s never played music.

Remember that if it’s a different instrument or voice type than yours, then you don’t have the necessary background to hear many technical flaws. I was recently dealt a blow to the ego by a college sophomore. She sang an AMAZING aria, full of life and animation and some high D’s. I just have to keep in mind that where she’s a lyric soprano, close to full vocal maturation, I’m likely a dramatic mezzo with about five more years before full vocal maturation. They are very different beasts, those voice types, and I cannot judge myself based on what this girl can do.

Remember music is not a race. It’s a waiting game. Playing music is hard. Sticking with it through college is harder – the competition can feel fierce. However, performing after college is the hardest. That’s when people stop caring about whether you succeed. you no longer have professors that want to help you pass something. It’s just you. If you can stick with music for five or ten years post graduation, you may be surprised to find who is still in the game. Wait it out and build your reputation and you will reap the rewards.

Remember that music should be done for the love of it and for others – not as a means of validation. You aren’t in music for the validation (if you are, reconsider). Music is a pursuit driven by passion. If you can’t be passionate about it, if you can’t artistically live off that passion, then you need to find something else. Many performers play to share the music they love with others. In my view, if your musical career was a car, then passion is the engine and sharing your music is the destination. Sometimes the engine runs out of gas and you need to push for a while. Sometimes you get lost and lost track of the destination. However, the journey is definitely easiest when your passion is going strong and you have a firm idea of where you’re going. Having that in mind is a great defense against a better performer killing your ego.

Music can be hard on the ego, of course. It’s not wrong to feel upset or uncertain sometimes. However, you need to develop defenses against the soul-suck of bruised egos and self-doubt if you want to succeed. Just remember: you’ve got this.

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