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How Insecurity Can Halt Your Career

I’d like to talk about a subject not often talked about in our business: insecurity.

Insecurity can be a real career killer. We all have it! It’s rampant in the entertainment business. But, if you have too much of it, it can get in the way.

If you can’t believe in what you play or capture, how are other people supposed to? In other words if you don’t feel good about what you’re doing, it starts showing up in your work.

There are several types of insecurity but I want to talk about two specifically.

Debbie Downer

This type of person will always feel they haven’t done good enough and often will apologize or make excuses. Often, no apologies or excuses need to be made.

I’m clearly not talking about when someone makes a clear mistake. We all make them. It’s fine to notice and comment that you’ve made one.

But focus on making it right and growing. There’s no need to go down the path of why you’re not good and how you’ll never get good. Keep your energy up! Observe what went wrong and fix it next time.

Feel good about the fact that you’re learning. Learning is one of the great joys of humanity. All the greats are continually learning and growing.

Beauty In The Beast

You need to be ok with imperfection. Perfection doesn’t exist. It’s a manufactured delusion. True perfection is in the imperfection.

Listen to the greatest moments in musical history. You’ll hear what could have just been considered mistakes. But, they’re precious. They’re human.

Let It Be

You need to be able to step back from yourself and appreciate your blemishes.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t try harder. I’m saying there is a difference between getting it right and over-obsessing. Over-obsessing leads to self destruction.

Maybe it could be better, but maybe it shouldn’t be.

Chatter

Don’t be negative about your work around other musicians. They may have liked what you did. Don’t make them feel bad or second-guess their opinion.

Creative environments are very delicate. Saying things like “I can’t get in the zone” or “I’m normally so much better than this,” or “if I just had x and y I could kill this part” — all buzz kills.

The person you’re talking to could be in “the zone.” You all rely on each other to stay positively afloat. One person having too much self-doubt puts a hole in the raft. You’re a team. Survive!

The Ego Trip

The other side of insecurity is ego. People make up for feeling bad about themselves by projecting overconfidence.

You don’t need to over-project your abilities. Talk less, work more.

Avoid talking about how you’re better than anyone. It doesn’t matter. It’s not going to get you the gig. And if you are on the gig, you’re going to rub people the wrong way.

Exposure

When the ego is too present it causes you to put up walls. You go into self-protection mode and don’t let anything in. Especially anything that may challenge you or cause you to feel exposed.

That’s not at all what art is about. This will stifle your creativity and you’ll eventually end up in a musical desert.

Deep inside ego is fear, and fear will make you its prisoner serving a life sentence.

The Authority

You don’t have to prove you know something. Steamrolling people doesn’t win them over.

Think about absorbing as much as you can rather than projecting.

Freeze Frame

I’ve seen careers halted in one position because they can’t manage their insecurities.

Negativity rattles musicians. You have to be at peace with yourself.

Respect Yourself

Forget about proving anything. If you’re on a mission to prove something, you’re likely going to disappoint yourself.

Even if you do prove that “thing,” it’s unlikely the person you’re trying to “one up” will care that much.

Hanging Around

We’ve all heard musicians refer to “vibes.” Someone with great vibe is someone who has enough confidence to fulfill their ideas, but doesn’t feel the need to gloat every time they achieve a goal. In other words, don’t publicly love yourself too much.

Friends Not Enemies

Don’t be threatened by other people if they’re better than you. It doesn’t mean they have a better idea or expression.

Learn from them. It’s a gift to be around people who have acquired more skill than you. Learn and absorb. Be confident in where you currently are.

Tunnel of Light

If you can’t be happy with who you are now, you’ll never be happy with what you become.

Every day is not going to be your best. There are going to be growing pains. You are going to make mistakes. You are going to have triumphs.

If you accept them all equally you can continually succeed … and be happy!

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Mark Marshall

Mark Marshall

Mark Marshall is a producer, songwriter, session musician and instructor based in NYC. More at guitaristmarkmarshall.com
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  • Gabriel Mendoza

    Probably the best article ever written on this site. Great Work

  • Sander

    Excellent article! I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, a ‘chatter’ incident like the one you address is one of ’em. That is mistake I won’t make again!

  • Tyree Woods

    Good stuff

  • Ross Milligan

    Good reminder…sometimes we unconsciuosly become our own worst critics for sure…I know I have to deal with it sometimes…center in and become you are always in the zone…I.M.H.O….I guess that is one of the nuances of playing Sax…you are always doing the deep breathing and you become the tone produced, for me anyway.

  • Samantha

    Great article. It exposes the human side of us all in a beautiful way so that we can get out of our own way and actually remember why we chose to live in this musical realm …because it’s a gift and we want to share it. Being self-destructive is our only barrier. Thanks for reminding us how we can overcome it and soar.

  • Truth

    This is exactly what I needed to read! Thank you for posting this, I let my insecurities get the best of me. I think partially society is to blame because they make it seem if you’re not perfect then you suck and you will never be successful. The people in general have turned negative. Every new upcoming artist that comes out, the first thing people do is ridicule them and knock their hustle but you just gotta do you and keep going!