Confidence is Sometimes a Shaky Edifice

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Some folks wake up exuding confidence and keep on exudin’ all day long. I have days like that, I guess, but it’s not every day.

If you have a normally upbeat outlook, it doesn’t take too much to get you feeling like you’ve got it made. Just a few affirmations of your worth, your skills, your talent or your charisma, and you’re recharged. While in the freshly charged mode, you’re impervious to negative influences.

It takes a solid self-confidence to play music well. But unless you’re one of those supremely gifted musicians, that confidence can ebb and flow a bit. One good night and you’re banging on the door to the Ryman, incredulous that they haven’t called you first.

Have an off night though, and you can feel like you’re playing with oven mitts on, after
gargling with Drano, and it can be hard to shake it.

I had a, uh, mediocre performance at a festival once. Well, I didn’t stink up the jointand maybe even no one noticed (please refrain from sending mr cards and letters telling me which performance you think it is – It’ll kill me!), but it was “off” enough that it shook me.
For a couple of weeks afterwards, I had trouble finding any mojo when I was playing.

Everything was laborious, and stiffly mechanical, like I had decided to switch from playing right-handed to left-handed.

“It’s gone.”, I despaired. “I had a good run, and some good fun, but it’s gone now.”

It’s a terrible feeling when you think you’ve been pretty good at something, and then something (a comment, a jeer, a heckle or your own fevered mind) gets into your head and tells you that you’ve been wrong all along.

Being shown up by a better musician doesn’t do this. I’ve always known there are players better than I, and I have treasured every chance to play with them. When I held my own, it’s a great confidence booster, but being unable to keep up is no source of shame – just an impetus to improve.

No, the confidence thief strikes by denying you territory you thought you had already staked out. You thought you were THIS good, and suddenly, you’re proved wrong (or so it seems.) The knees buckle, your cheeks flush and your eyes get red.

This may be the very reason some folks stop playing. They grow weary of the emotional roller coaster. But you can’t dread the downtimes so much that you deny yourself the good times. And know this – in the bluegrass community, at least, there
are many, many more people that will offer you kind encouragement than a sneer, ever.

You just gotta climb back on your horse. I better stop now – I’m getting this close to breaking into a Journey song.

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