Updated: Jul 7
In this article, you’ll learn what self-confidence means and what the reasons and signs for low-self confidence are. You will also find some practical tips and ideas on how you can boost the confidence level of your music students. Take a few minutes to read through this article to learn how to support your students on their journey to become successful with their instruments.
What does it mean to be confident?
Confidence is coming from knowing who you are. Being self-confident means knowing your own limits, accepting your weaknesses, your doubts, and your fears, but also being aware of the resources and the talent you have. Confidence doesn’t mean that you won’t fail, that you are always happy and you never experience self-doubt. Being confident helps you know that you can handle certain feelings and overcome obstacles. In other words, confidence means appreciating your true value and to know who you really are.
What does it mean to be over-confident?
Self-confidence is all about balance. Too much confidence which is not grounded in reality can be a problem. Let’s suppose that you have an exam or a concert very soon. If you think that you don’t need to prepare because you know everything by heart, you’ll make no mistakes because you play flawless, or maybe you need no feedback because you know everything, then you are probably slightly over-confident. What can we learn from that? To be confident, first of all, you need to invest some effort and time in your preparation. Mistakes can happen, but being confident you’ll learn from them and from the feedback you’ll receive. As you can see, too much confidence is not better than having low self-esteem.
Which are the reasons for low self-confidence?
In the «The Self-Confidence Workbook» Barbara Markway and Celia Ampel are telling us, that our genes, cultural background, childhood experiences, and life circumstances are essential when talking about self-confidence. It seems that between 25 to 50% of the personality traits linked to confidence may be inherited. There are some life experiences that can lead to low self-confidence, for example, trauma (physical, sexual, or emotional abuse), parenting style, bullying, harassment, gender, race or sexual orientation. Depression, anxiety and perfectionism are other factors that contribute to low-self esteem.
Which are the signs that I have low self-confidence?
In her book "Avoir confiance en soi" (Believing in yourself), Marie Haddou offers some characteristics for lack of confidence. See whether you find yourself in the descriptions below.
The Feeling of Inferiority
This induces a bad opinion about yourself; it persistently makes you aware of your flaws and minimizes your qualities and successes. Thus, you live in a state of permanent underestimation and self-criticism: “I will never succeed. I cannot face this situation. I am not good enough.” On the other hand, it causes an overestimation of others, whom you see as better than yourself: “Others are more successful, more talented, more intelligent than I am.”
The Feeling of Discouragement
You have the feeling that any action you take will lead to a negative result or will be a failure. You only see the disadvantages and you lack the ability to make an objective estimation. You have the tendency to exaggerate the difficulties and, in order to avoid any action, you prefer to resign yourself: “It is not a good moment to try. I would rather not do a thing than do it poorly. It’s really not worth trying.”
The Feeling of Embarrassment or Guilt
Embarrassment can appear in relation to your physical aspect, your ideas, your flaws, or your behavior. “I say stupid things. I am way too agitated, awkward, shy, etc.” Often, the feeling of shame leads to a feeling of guilt: “I only confuse the others with my work style. I am such a procrastinator that no one can rely on me.”
The Feeling of Anxiety
Any unpredictable situation or any situation that requires responsibility gives you a feeling of anxiety. The physical symptoms can sometimes be quite strong: dizziness, light-headedness, confusing and irrational thoughts, and the incapacity to concentrate. You may feel scared, overwhelmed, or incapable of finishing the work you have to do.
The Feeling of Rejection
You have the feeling that others criticize or reject you easily because you have nothing good to offer or because they don’t care about you, which amplifies your poor opinion of yourself. You do not express your opinions any longer and attempt to avoid any situations that could make you appear ridiculous. “I am no good. My opinion does not matter anyway; they don’t care about me. My suggestion will not matter.”
Is it common that as a musician I struggle with low self-confidence?
Self-confidence fluctuates according to the circumstances we’re in, the people we come in touch with, but also to our own thoughts and values. A friendly environment where we find love, respect, and fairness will certainly have a better influence on our self-confidence than a hostile, cold, or ambiguous environment.
As musicians, we all experience moments of low self-confidence at some point in our careers. Lack of confidence may be triggered by certain failures, criticism, negative feedback, or rejection. All of these could lead to taking a step back and making ourselves reluctant to take any risk for fear one could fail again.
How can I help my students gain more self-confidence?
Sometimes we forget our past accomplishments too easily and we choose to focus on what we could not get or what didn’t work the way we would have liked. Self-confidence is difficult to build and far too easy to lose, which is why you need determination and the will to change.
Here are some steps you can recommend to your music students:
Write down ten accomplishments you have had throughout the years. These should include both small and big accomplishments. For example, I won a prize at a competition three years ago; I got a very high grade on an exam last year; I received a scholarship in my second university year.
Replace the negative thoughts with positive ones. When our thoughts are affirmative and cheerful, they will affect not only our state of mind and the way we feel (we’ll become much more confident, energetic, and motivated), but also the final result, which will be much better. Here are some examples: I have confidence in my preparation and in my qualities as a musician; I’ll try to connect with the audience in the concert hall; I am prepared, motivated, and full of energy to be able to offer my best performance so far; It’s important that I stay focused until the end; This is an experience I’ll learn from.
Write down what you’ve accomplished until the end of the day. Small things really matter! Write even simple things like for example I woke up in time; I’ve eaten a healthy breakfast; I’ve done my daily routine.
Avoid generalization and use a growth mindset. The goal is to adopt balanced self-talk and to avoid terms like: never and always, especially when things don’t go as you have planned them. I’m always making mistakes; I’ll never play at my highest level on stage; Either I’m good at something or I’m not. First of all, think if this type of dialog is useful or is helping you move toward your goals. If not, replace these phrases with better ones for example: Sometimes I’m making mistakes, but I can improve; If I prepare myself properly, I’ll be able to play at my highest level on stage; I can learn to do new things if I want to.
Here are some key takeaways for you:
Confidence is something we are born with but also depends on our circumstances, environment, education, thoughts, and values.
Self-confidence is difficult to build and far too easy to lose, which is why you need determination and perseverance.
Allow yourself to enjoy your past accomplishments (big or small), even for a few moments, and do not forget to add future ones to the list!
More information and practical suggestions about other interesting topics like perfectionism, exhaustion, burnout, procrastination, and resistance, can be found in my book: Coaching for Musicians which is available on Amazon:
Buy Lidia's book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.de/Coaching-Musicians-Practical-Potential-Performance/dp/1087003024/
Performance, Career and Life Coaching for Musicians and Music Teachers: https://app.matchspace-music.ch/course/972