I can honestly say that I have never met anyone with real talent who has a permanent state of confidence –says Leontine Hass
Confidence. That elusive quality we all strive for as performers and as people. How do we get it and how do we maintain it?
In the many years I have worked as a vocal coach with many singers including a string of established and well known artists, I can honestly say that I have never met anyone with real talent who has a permanent state of confidence.
Perhaps this is some sort of coincidence. Perhaps there is a multitude of people at large in the world brimming with the stuff of heroes and residing in an emotional nirvana. I’ve just never met them.
To me confidence is overrated. The lack of it, however, does not quite command the deserved acclaim.
In many, it is precisely the lack of confidence which propels them forward.
It is the niggling self doubt, the existentialist fear of not making a mark, that inspires many of us to try to do better, to make the effort to be above average and to strive for the extraordinary.
Replace Confidence with Determination
The trait I notice in those who succeed is not so much confidence, but more a dogged determination.
It is sheer bloody mindedness and resilience.
It is the ability to try, to fail, and to try again. It is the ability to jump in the deep end with all your fears and insecurities and learn on the job, make it up as you go along.
Those who do this often enough build experience. And experience is vital. It takes time. In our age of social media, apps and computers we are under the false illusion that instant gratification should be the modus operandi of life. But it isn’t.
Building real skills and a deeper inner knowledge and reliable intuition, takes time and experience. One cannot argue with it.
And building a sense of self, an ability to find a place of inner calm and acceptance is hard work. It means accepting oneself with all one’s faults and follies and accepting the possibility that one may not please everyone.
The dictionary definition of ‘confidence’ is ‘belief in one’s own abilities, self-assurance’. I have met very few people who consistently ‘believe in their own abilities’.
This is not to say we do not have flashes of self-appreciation and self-acceptance. Most of us do. But most of us also have tidal waves of apocalyptic proportions of self-doubt, impostor syndrome, anxiety and occasional self-loathing.
Those of us who handle this a little better probably accept this with a good deal of humour and acceptance that this moment too will pass.
The trouble with the concept of confidence is that just thinking about it and people who apparently have it, depletes the little of it we may have. It is a sure – fire way towards an even greater feeling of inadequacy.
This is only my opinion of course, but here is a list of practical things which can be done and which, I have come to believe through experience, work:
1. Be prepared and practice
Preparation and practice are not elusive concepts. They are something you can do, no matter how you feel about yourself.
2. Take sanctuary
Let your work be your sanctuary rather than the place to avoid.
3. Feed your passion
Be creative with your material and explore other repertoire, other artists, other genres, go to concerts, share with other creatives, dream about possibilities.
4. Take any chance to perform
Performance takes practice. The more you do it the better you become at it.
5. Carpe Diem
When an opportunity comes your way grab it with both hands and ride the wave. Don’t let it pass. Opportunities are rare gifts. If you ignore them until a time ‘when you are feeling more confident in your ability’, they may pass you by. Accept that you may never feel consistently confident and get out there and do what you need to do in spite of feeling insecure.
Learn to understand and accept your good and bad days. Think about what you do to sabotage yourself. Do you procrastinate when you feel overwhelmed? Whatever negative habits you have, be onto yourself. Break a large task down into smaller tasks and write lists. Simply get them done. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!
7. Appreciate your quiet, awkward, nerdy, uncool traits
Being cool is overrated. Make friends with your demons, sit with your fears, and then get on with what you have to do.
8. Understand that experience takes time
Challenge the idea that your next song needs to be perfect or your next performance needs to be flawless. All great artists have had many failures. In fact they have probably had more failures. That is why they have succeeded in the end.
9. Be creative
Play, play with your music, sculpt a beautiful sound, bring yourself to your performance rather than hide behind it, play, explore, try things.
10. Aim to increase your success rate
..rather than aim to be perfect at all times. If 5 out of 10 gigs are good then that is not bad. Work your way up slowly. Allow yourself to fail, get up, dust yourself off and start again. Learn to laugh about it.
Leontine Hass BA, Melb. Uni, BMus. Kings College London, Dip. RAM is a singer, actress, vocal coach, Director of The Associated Studios and WAM.Co (The Word and Music Company) and a contributor to The Ultimate Guide to Singing. As a vocal coach, Leontine has a busy private practice comprising professional singers and recording artists.