I used to be afraid to speak about my success. I would worry about coming off as over-confident, arrogant or a show-off and being misunderstood or disliked …but now I know I was mostly afraid of jinxing myself and not measuring up to a particular idea of success. I felt like an imposter. How could I introduce myself as someone successful at singing while I knew I was still failing at some of my key goals? I could call myself a rising singer-songwriter with incredible live vocals and electric performances, but how did that measure up with not getting callbacks at auditions, low record sales, and failed attempts to breakthrough further in the industry. Even though these losses didn’t nullify the wins I’d already accomplished and the progress I was actually making each day, I had a hard time understanding that, because in my mind my shortcomings overshadowed everything. I would want to share an accomplishment and think, “Who am I kidding? This isn’t a big deal. I’m still not even close to where I should be.” I would talk myself out of it just like that and ultimately get in my own way. The more I focused on my negative thoughts, the less I shared about my positive achievements and the less people even knew this rising singer-songwriter existed. Good old self-sabotage at it’s best. So this year I took on my self-sabotage and here’s what I have to share about it.
Regina Spektor sings “if you never say your name out loud to anyone they can never ever call you by it.” This lyric has always been a life lesson for me. In this case, how could I expect to breakthrough in the industry, sell records and nail auditions when I didn’t even believe in myself enough to talk about what I was up to, show how far I’d come and highlight the things I was already excelling at? Who would take me seriously if I for one wouldn’t? I was worried about coming off as arrogant, because I was a fake believer in myself. No wonder I felt like I was blowing hot air anytime I talked about my success. The only imposter here was my harsh self-critic posing as my friend with the “humbling, down-to-earth” personality. You know the one I’m talking about…the one that shows up in self-deprecating captions under beautiful pictures…the one that formulates narcissism disclaimers, when really our beauty, success and happiness should be celebrated. When did knowing and showing what we’re good at, become a negative thing? I’m so guilty of trying to find the words and actions that keep me in the narcissism safety zone and it’s a waste of time. I’ve learned that sharing on this level isn’t truly sharing. It only holds me back. It makes me more self-conscious and less authentic. I second-guess my self-expression because I’m so worried that other people will think I’m either full of myself or full of it, and the irony is, all that worry about I how I come across is more narcissistic in the end.
So how do we escape this weird, self-fulfilling cycle of feeling like we’re faking it till we make it. Well I recently got some inspiration from the late but legendary Prince. In an interview of his, which I watched recently, Prince said, “I don’t look at myself through other people’s eyes”. As artists, we are often caught between living up to our personal artistic standards and wanting public recognition for our work. But what if we really expressed ourselves without worrying about measuring up. I bet it would get rid of a lot of self-sabotage. The good news about self-sabotage is that it only takes one person to put an end to it (hint, hint). I’m willing stop worrying so much about measuring up, if it means one less thing in my way. Every now and then, I’m going pat myself on the back for getting one step closer. Even if it’s a victory that only I understand, once in a while I’m going to shout my success from the rooftops because celebrating the milestones keeps me going. It reminds me that I’m on the right path and I’m progressing even when I fail. For every win, my heroes like Prince have taken five times as many losses and for every yes, they’ve heard ten times as many no’s. Moments of triumph don’t happen overnight and they certainly don’t happen every night. So in the meantime, let’s focus on our personal progress and kick self-sabotage to the curb. I encourage you to celebrate where you’ve been, where you are now and where you’re going because if you don’t, who will? Remember “if you never say your name out loud to anyone, they can never ever call you by it.”