My path to self-validation as a musician

My path to self-validation as a musician

The other day, a dear friend reminded me that our dreams and hopes are the seeds and that our thoughts are the soil for the seeds to grow.

I am happy for the people who have never had to question themselves. We all have different life experiences. Unlike these people, I spent most of my life being possibly the worst friend to myself, always judging, criticising, and telling myself incessantly that I am not (___) enough.

I have had the fortune to be surrounded by the artists I admired and respected deeply. It was, most of times, inspiring and a truly wonderful learning experience. How encouraged I felt to be advised to play Chopin’s Etudes again by this artist when I told him I would never play them ever again, how my brain became disorganised by the burst of inspiration, how I felt I was in another world altogether by a discussion of a different way of looking at this or that passage in one of Brahms Intermezzos, and how I could look at Mozart’s KV537, etc, etc.

Instead of going forward and learning more, I allowed my soil to be contaminated and very dry- preciously because I had never respected myself since very young. Slowly I began to feel I had nothing to offer. My thoughts were: there are already these GREAT artists and what right do I have to serve music with my limited talent? I played the occasional concertos and chamber music, but stopped playing any solo work altogether over 10 years.

It only got worse over time. I was totally devastated when I caught myself struggling with playing a simple scale. It felt as if I forgot how to move my fingers. The despair and desperation were reaching its limits.

It is a miracle that I continued in this state for a few years, but it was a pure torture to say the least. I was shattered emotionally and physically. I swore myself many times that I’d give up after this or that concert. The agony on a concert day was indescribable…

I couldn’t talk to anyone about what was going on in my inner world because I was afraid of more unwanted judgements. I was very very lonely.

I didn’t touch a key when there was a guest in the house. I was ashamed, in fact, I was ashamed of being myself. Interesting enough, this coincided with the breakthrough of my approach to practice. Perhaps I began to question EVERYTHING including how to move my fingers.I wasn’t able to focus on anything as the despair and negative self-image were shooting in all directions and shining the whole universe between 2007-2014. Concentration was a real issue in this period even if I had no trouble concentrating before and now.

I don’t know exactly when the healing process started and the sanity began to restore. It is still a question mark for me. Perhaps it was when I realised how much I relied on others to validate myself as a musician, and that the integrity and dignity I didn’t think I had couldn’t let others treat me like a doormat on which they can scrub their dirty shoes any longer.

I began to practise giving myself a licence to be myself and be a musician. I was determined and I was committed. There is no such thing as 99% committed. You’re either 100% committed or not.

We musicians tend to validate ourselves by others. CVs are most of times all about who we studied and played with, where, and what other people said about us. I had to learn a painful and long way to believe in my bones that I also have right to exist, and I don’t need others to say I am allowed to be a musician. When I stopped asking others to give me the approval in my subconscious world, that was when I began to be appreciated unexpectedly.

I am grateful for these very painful years now ( took me many years!) I don’t beat myself up with a thought that I should have been different and I should have done this or that any longer. It taught me one of the most important lessons in life, and I will carry it until I become a part of tiny particles travelling in the universe.

Thank you, Jennifer, again for reminding me of the seeds and the soil. I am determined to keep my soil nutritious and fertile. I hope all of you do the same.