Do you have a hard time celebrating your accomplishments?
We spend countless hours practicing, taking lessons, playing in rehearsals, going to masterclasses, and working so hard. So, why do we so easily forget our accomplishments after they happen? It becomes easy to dismiss accomplishments, I’ve learned about this through personal experience and in therapy. Disqualifying the positive is a common cognitive distortion in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.
So if you do this, know that a lot of other humans do too. For some reason, we have this drive to always do the next thing, always do better. But how do we better celebrate and remind ourselves what we’ve been able to accomplish already? Well, I don’t think that this starts just in hindsight, but can be facilitated by the way you treat yourself on the way to each accomplishment.
In music, it may seem a little unclear when we should be celebrating and what counts as an accomplishment, this is so unclear that so many people dismiss or disqualify their accomplishments. There is no end to learning an instrument. There are always things to refine, to try, to get better at. It can even seem silly sometimes to celebrate accomplishments because (especially in school) we have such a “long way to go.”
There is also a very common mentality that when we practice or learn something new (in music specifically) we should already be able to do it. So when we finally do accomplish it, we don’t think of it as an accomplishment, we see it as being where we should have been all along. When we think about building skills instead of fixing mistakes we are much more likely to see what we’ve done instead of being down on ourselves for not having been there already.
(Check out my blog post Building Vs. Fixing if you want to learn more about that concept)
I also hear a lot of people talk about how they don’t want to think they are good at their instrument. They think that if they celebrate themselves or like how they play then they won’t work harder or won’t try to get better. However, I want to argue that motivation doesn’t always have to come from a disapproving and negative place. It can come from a joyous place or even a neutral place. When you think you’re good at something, normally, you want to do more of it!
So how do we celebrate ourselves when the norm is to dismiss and devalue all we have already done?
When we are in the mentality of dismissing our accomplishments, we are in “lack” or “scarcity” thinking. This means we are focused on what we haven't done or the lack of accomplishments we have. This is a habit of the brain after a while. So, in order to think differently, we need to build a new mental habit. How do we do that?
Practice celebrating yourself. It will feel uncomfortable at first if you’re not used to it. Nothing has gone wrong, your brain is just used to looking for the things you don’t yet have instead of the things you do have. Here’s what I suggest:
Observe your mind and what it tends to focus on. If you’ve read any of my blogs you know that this is the rudimentary skill of thought work. Write your thoughts down and look at them without judgment, meaning don’t judge yourself for having thoughts. You have 60,000 thoughts a day, you don’t choose all of them (or most of them for that matter).
Write down the facts. What have you done? What schools did you get into? What did you prepare for? What did you learn today or this week? How many years have you dedicated your life to this instrument? Etc. Just state facts.
I have a Doctor of Musical Arts
I have taken 20 auditions
I have competed in 15 competitions
I have played the flute for 19 years
Look at the facts. Your brain may be able to see a little bit better that your career isn’t just a lack of accomplishments. You don’t even have to be proud at first, you can just look at the list you made of the facts of the situation. Practicing thinking these facts will help you switch into a more abundant mindset rather than a scarce one.
Acknowledge the facts day to day. You have the opportunity to celebrate yourself, tell yourself, “I’m proud of you” whenever you want. After every practice session, every listening session, every time you pick up your instrument. If you’re not ready to celebrate and you’re rolling your eyes right now, just state the facts.
How do you treat yourself in your preparation for these big events?
Do you encourage yourself? Or do you tear yourself down?
How you treat yourself matters. It matters a bunch. Honestly, if you have an amazing relationship with yourself, the rejections, failures, and other unexpected obstacles become much easier, because you don’t beat yourself up. You have your own back, just like a friend would. You celebrate yourself when you care about yourself.
I took an audition about a month ago, and I discovered that when I helped myself through the preparation, encouraged myself, and dealt with my negative self-talk in a healthy way, I was extremely proud of myself even before the results came in.
How you think matters. How you talk to yourself matters. If you’d like some guidance in this area, I’ve got you. Book a free discovery call with me and let’s chat! We talk about where you are, where you want to be, and discover how to get there and what’s possible for you! (spoilers: it's whatever you want!) Click here to book a session!