Perfect Reminders that I Am Enough, Right When I Needed Them Most (Also: Quit Comparing Yourself to Others)
“What you're doing professionally is nice, and all...but don't you think you should be doing more?”
No, that question did not come from a well-meaning but critical relative, teacher, or friend. It came from inside my own head...that nagging voice of self-criticism, of creeping insecurity that what I'm doing with my life – at least professionally – is not enough. That voice is nowhere near the constant companion to me that it was for many years, thankfully. But every so often it insinuates itself, unbidden, into my consciousness: when I'm feeling emotionally vulnerable or depressed in particular. (Those of us who have a history of depression and anxiety, not surprisingly, are particularly prone to alarmingly frequent visits from that inner critical voice. Fortunately, as I said, mine are not so alarmingly frequent in recent years. And when that voice makes itself heard, I know its message is not only thoroughly inaccurate, but serves no good purpose. Still, it can be difficult to tell it to be quiet, and to stop paying attention.
“You know, (a certain friend/acquaintance/colleague) is doing music like you, teaching and/or performing. But he/she has more gigs than you, and they sound more interesting and varied. And, (friend/acquaintance/colleague) is better-connected and better-known than you. You need to try to be more like him/her. The way you're doing this isn't the right way, compared to others.”
So the Demon of Comparing Myself Unfavorably to Others had been keeping me company, again, totally uninvited, during the first part of the summer of 2014. And then, right before July 4th, THIS happened. It was so much exactly what I needed right when I needed it the most that I actually journaled about it:
July 3, 2014
I was reading Jen Sincero's book You Are a BadA**: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life (have I said I can't recommend this book highly enough??) over lunch at my gig (playing live music for a senior living facility in my community) yesterday, and two small but great things happened:
1) In the chapter Ms Sincero calls "Love the One You Is," about accepting yourself 100%, seventh on her list of key points is "Don't Compare Yourself to Others." "Comparison is the fastest way to take all the fun out of life," she says, and "deciding that someone else's uniqueness is better than your own isn't exactly being your own best buddy about things." And then THIS: "Can you imagine what our world would be like if our biggest heroes succumbed to the perils of comparison?...If the guys in Led Zeppelin compared themselves to Mozart? "Dude. That guy's huge. Way huger than we'll ever be and he doesn't even have a drummer. I think we should get rid of ours and maybe add some harps while we're at it."
OK, that made me GRIN -- not just because she mentions my all-time favorite band and one of my favorite classical composers in this example -- but because Ms Sincero totally reminded me that it's precisely because Led Zeppelin AND Mozart AND my other musical heroes and she-roes inspire me so profoundly that I've put music at the center of my professional life. My favorite musicians have made others happy through their music...and that's my purpose, too. You know how sometimes you just need a concise and powerful reminder of why you're doing what you're doing? That was it and it could not have been more perfect for me! (Oh, and the reminder to not compare myself to others...that's a very good thing too. I'm better than I used to be, but it's a work in progress...)
2) Right while I was still grinning about #1, the Activities Assistant for my favorite Alzheimer's Care Community came into the break room. She asked if I was planning to visit that community and I said I was, and she said "Then that's a good day! The music is just so great for everybody there, and that is just a wonderful service you're providing us." And as she pointed out, she doesn't usually say mushy emotional stuff like that unless she REALLY means it. PRICELESS.
So. Two little but powerful reminders right in a row that I am doing just what I'm supposed to be doing right now...at a time I needed that! And I am sharing this here now, eight years later, to remind you that YOU, too, are enough. And please don't compare yourself to others. That way lies madness, and you are your own flavor of awesome. Even if you don't believe it, you are.