A case for the Self-Centered Musician (hang in there, I know how that sounds)
Few things can make the color drain from my face like the word “selfish”. In the past, I saw that word as the ultimate insult and in my mind the leap from “you are selfish” to “YOU. ARE. TERRIBLE.” could be conquered by an inch worm with an under active thyroid. So yes, safe to say that “selfish” is a shame trigger for me.
As so many of us do, I would find myself compromising my authenticity, my values, putting my wants and needs on the back-burner, and burning myself out, all to avoid being seen as someone who cared for her “self” more than others.
^ STOP. WAIT. ZOOM IN ON THAT. ^ At what point in my or any of our lives did caring for ourselves become a bad thing? When did we ingest and make infallible the idea that our needs are less important than what people want from us? Personally, I know my answer is somewhere between Catholic School and puberty... *shrug*
So what does this belief look like as a musician?
“Sure, yeah, no problem. I’ll stay late to run that scene again (even though I haven’t been home all day, I’m absolutely exhausted and my dog is probably eating the furniture in protest).”
“No, that’s okay. I don’t really need a travel stipend… I’ll find a cheap flight (it’ll probably have to be a redeye on Spirit Airlines and the seat won’t recline) and make it work, somehow.”
“I guess I’ll have to sing sick (even if it means I won’t be able to sing AT ALL next week)… I mean, I wouldn’t want to let anyone down.”
“It’s much more important to practice and get this passage absolutely perfect than to take care of myself. No one cares if I’m going through a hard time, they only care that I get this right! I wouldn’t want to waste anyone’s time in rehearsal.”
My friends, these are all things I’ve caught myself saying (uh... to myself) in the past MONTH. So clearly, I am absolutely a work in progress (and thank Jahosaphat for that)! But here’s the thing, when we show up to a performance, a rehearsal, or even the practice room, we bring our full selves into that space. Whether we like it or not, we can’t really check our tired, our disappointed, our anxious, our sick, our crabby or our hungry selves at the door. We show up to create in whatever state we’re in. Hopefully, we have loving, understanding colleagues who “get it”. But friends, if they get that, don’t you think they’d get the “no”, the “absolutely” or the “this is how this can work for my needs” as well? So, in a way, if we show up without communicating honestly and openly about what we need for our selves, aren’t we being… a tad bit selfish?
STAY WITH ME! I am not saying that the wonderful people you surround yourself with are not important. What I am saying is that SO ARE YOU. Furthermore, you are the only person on this planet that you can control (and even that’s a struggle sometimes!) so treat the center of your world (that’s you!) with some kindness and compassion. Believe it or not, everyone will benefit from that.
It’s okay to say “no”. It’s okay to say “yes and…” . Your needs are valid and your “self” is important. Taking care of yourself does not mean that you aren’t taking care of others.
It’s not selfish to center yourself.