Composing Career Bootcamp

🥰 How to Rebuild Your Confidence as a Composer

⭐️ highlights 🧠 mindset Apr 09, 2024

One of the most difficult questions I’ve ever been asked came from a 30-year old composer back in 2023.

Here’s what he wrote to me:

“On paper, I have the knowledge, experience, and abilities to pursue a full-time musical career in some form or another.

But I lack FAITH.

On a good day, I still can’t see where all of my efforts are leading. And a bad day, my work feels fruitless and naive.

So my question is this:

Where does your faith in yourself come from? And how do you find it again when you lose it?”

When I read this, I honestly felt stumped.

I’ve been fortunate to have been supported by my friends and family through my career, and maybe had enough naivety to NOT question my career choice when I was young.

But not everyone has that kind of internal or external support.

I decided to do some research into self-belief, and I discovered some good news:

Self-belief isn’t something you simply are or aren’t born with.

Self-belief is LEARNED.

Psychologist Albert Bandura coined the term “self efficacy” as a way to understand the relationship between self belief and personal motivation:

“Self efficacy is an individual’s belief in their capacity to act in the ways necessary to reach specific goals.”

In his studies, Bandura developed four pillars that, when nurtured, unlock a stronger sense of self belief.

So today, I’d like to share those four pillar with you.

Start nurturing these pillars, and you’ll start believing in yourself.

1. 💪 Stop thinking, start doing.

Self-belief comes from previous proof that we’re capable of what we set out to do.

Without that, it’s hard to trust our own abilities.

Bandura calls this pillar “performance outcomes”, stating that both positive and negative experiences can influence what we think about our capabilities.

So to start believing in yourself…

You need to start doing what you want to believe in.

The key to this is to start small. If you want to compose full-time, don’t jump straight to emailing Pixar with your reel and resume.

Start by re-scoring your favorite movie scene with just your primary instrument.

Then send an email to a friend of yours asking if they know anyone that can help you.

Then try writing your first multi-instrumental track.

Work in small, manageable steps so you can build that confidence incrementally.

2. 💬 Seek encouragement from others.

What we hear repeatedly is what we come to believe.

Bandura refers to this as “verbal persuasion”.

Often, when we’re doing something in isolation, the only voice we hear is our own inner critic:

“I’ll never be as good as John Powell. I’ve peaked—this is the best my career will ever get. Who am I to charge that much for composing?”

(☝️ If you couldn’t guess, that’s my inner critic)

To break out of this thought loop, we need to open ourselves to the feedback and encouragement of others.

Ask a family member or friend for a supportive word.

Voice your fears and worries aloud.

Allow your closest circle to build you up when you feel down.

3. ⚖️ Stop comparing yourself

Our belief in our abilities can become skewed based on how we perceive the abilities of the people around us.

Bandura defines this as “vicarious experiences”—experience based on observing others.

In my opinion, this is THE biggest trap that artists fall into.

We start off being positively inspired by our idols…

But without safeguards to protect our emotions, that inspiration shifts into:

  • 😓 Hopelessness (”I’ll never be that good”)
  • 😠 Jealousy (”Why don’t I have that?”)
  • 💭 Longing (”If only I could to that…”)

Mark Twain famously said:

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”

In that spirit, the only person you should be comparing yourself to is YOU.

I can guarantee you that you’ve made progress in your personal and professional goals over the last few years.

It’s just a question of whether you’re acknowledging your growth, or dismissing it.

Get in the habit of celebrating your progress.

4. ❤️ Take care of yourself.

One of my favorite quotes comes from a Tweet from James Clear, author of Atomic Habits:

So many of the problems we’re dealing with internally are just the result of not taking care of our mind/body.

Bandura calls this “physiological feedback”, and the antidote is simple:

Take time for yourself.

If you’re working towards a goal, you’re a car heading to a far-off destination.

You need to take time to re-fuel your tank. 🚗

Here’s some quick ideas on simple ways to re-fuel:

  • 📞 Call someone you haven’t talked to in a while
  • 🚶‍♂️ Go for a 10-minute walk
  • 🌮 Cook something you love
  • 🕹️ Play your favorite video game
  • 💪 Do 10 pushups
  • ✍️ Write down something you’re grateful for

Re-energizing your mind, body, and spirit is the key to long-term success and the nurturing of your self-belief.

Remember:

The development of self-belief is an ongoing journey.

Sometimes, it’ll come naturally.

Sometimes, it’ll feel like a distant memory.

(And everything in-between)

But there’s actionable tools you can use to keep your chin up, stay hopeful, and continue to believe in yourself as you embark on your journey.

(P.S. If you’re like my student and trying to go full-time, it’s nearly impossible to stay motivated on your own. The Composing Career Bootcamp was designed to keep you connect with and inspired by other aspiring full-time musicians just like you!)

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