Spring Cleaning

Spring has arrived here in New England (sort of?)!  Yes, there is still snow on the ground, but soon we will be seeing more green, more sunshine, and even longer hours of daylight!  Yay!

There is something truly invigorating and motivating about coming out the winter stupor and seeing new life bursting forth everywhere.  You suddenly have more energy and a more positive attitude.  You somehow feel like you can do ANYTHING!

It seems natural for us, then, to imitate nature’s “out with the old, in with the new” theme and clean out our own closets/bedrooms/apartments/houses/backyards.  We throw away or donate things we don’t want or use anymore.  We take stock of what we have, set goals and make plans for the warm weather months, and seek out new ways to improve our lives.

If we do this in our homes and with our possessions, why not take on a similar project in our artistic lives?  When was the last time you re-evaluated your attitudes, habits, and goals as a performer?

As performers, we put up with a lot of not-enjoyable things.  We face competition, intense pressure, rejection, drama, and exhaustion, to name a few.  Like the darkness and cold of the winter months, these things can really have a negative effect on your psyche, sometimes without you even realizing it.

So this spring, stop and think about your artistic mindset a bit.  Are there any mentalities, attitudes, or situations you can “clean out” or “throw away?”  Once you’ve done your spring cleaning, replace the old negative stuff with fresh, positive attitudes and goals.

Here are just a few of the things you can eliminate:

1. Negative self-talk.  If you say or think too many negative things about yourself, you will eventually start to believe them.  Trust me, your self-esteem will plummet faster and more dramatically than the descent from the top of a roller coaster.  It is one thing to be honest with yourself about your shortcomings; it is completely another to make yourself feel worthless because of them.

2. Unnecessary excuses.  Stop blaming your failures or bad luck on other people or circumstances.  Instead, learn how to take ownership of your artistic ventures, whether or not they are a “success.”

3. Toxic situations.  If you can’t stand the politics and off-stage drama that permeates the school musical every year, then maybe consider finding a new, healthier opportunity.  If you feel that your chorus’s long rehearsals are using up so much voice that you don’t have enough left to practice your own rep, then consider setting chorus aside for a while to focus your vocal efforts on your personal practicing.

4. Comparing yourself to others.  This a specific and very dangerous brand of negative self-talk.  When you’re envious that you’re not as good as someone else, your focus becomes warped.  It becomes impossible to evaluate your own holistic progress if you are hyper-focused on your competition.  Conversely, if you are constantly muttering about how so-and-so got the lead and, how come? because you are so much better than her, then it means you are either a) insecure, b) conceited, or c) a very sore loser.  It doesn’t matter if you ARE better than so-and-so.  What matters is that you’re too busy letting someone else’s successes get in the way of your own growth, instead of taking ownership of your own artistry.

Once you’ve done your “cleaning,” here are some positive things you can put in place of the old stuff:

1. Short-term, realistic goals.  Instead of dwelling on the negative aspects of your artistry, simply acknowledge them and start taking steps to fix them.  Something like, “I want to fix technique x by the end-of-year recital.”  Be specific and realistic, and enlist the help of your teacher or coach if necessary.

2. Self-honesty.  This means acknowledging your strengths as well as your weaknesses.  Or, if you’re prone to making excuses, it may mean thinking of new ways to combat or deal with the negative circumstances you’ve faced in the past.  Be proactive, not a victim.

3. Seeking out new, positive opportunities.  If you’ve faced a lot of criticism or rejection in a certain area lately – like never getting the leads at school despite auditioning really well – maybe it means it’s time to branch out and look for new opportunities.  Find a place where your particular skills are valued.  This may take a while, but trust me – you WILL find someone who appreciates you, if you continue to work hard and look around enough.

4. Knowing your worth.  Every artist has his strengths and weaknesses.  There will never NOT be something to improve upon.  The key to a healthy self-confidence is to know what your particular, unique skills are, and how to put them to good use.

So, in short, stop being negative and passive, and start being positive and proactive!  Taking ownership of your performing life will help the true, unique YOU continue to shine.  So, happy spring, and happy cleaning!