Remember The Little Engine That Could?
What was her catch phrase?
“I think I can, I think I can.”
Simply believing “you can” is the key to overcoming confidence issues as a singer.
I can hear you now:
Great, thanks for the tip. If I believed “I can”, I wouldn’t be having confidence issues, and I wouldn’t be reading this article.
But what if I told you there are easy, practical steps you can take to make believing in yourself a reality?
It’s not just wishful thinking. It’s rooted in psychology.
I’ll explain the psychology, and cover 4 easy things you can do today to finally believe in yourself.
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A Psychology Lesson For the Nerds - And For You!
Simply put, how successful you believe you will be has a huge impact on how successful you will be.
Now, this isn’t some woo-woo, make-a-vision-board-and-watch-your-dreams-come-true philosophy.
Self-efficacy is important, because it doesn’t just determine the way you think and feel, it determines the way you behave.
People with higher self-efficacy live in a way that encourages achievement.
- View challenging problems as tasks to be mastered, not avoided.
- Develop deeper interest in the activities in which they participate.
- Form a stronger sense of commitment to their interests and activities.
- Recover quickly from setbacks and disappointments.
Self-efficacy could also be described as confidence. The thing is, we tend to think of confidence as something you are magically born with. But as Bandura found, and we will too, that’s just not true.
So, what does all this psychology have to do with singing?
You love to sing, right? You’re passionate about pursuing singing as either a career or a serious hobby, or you wouldn’t be here.
Unfortunately, it is often the things we are most passionate about that take the greatest toll on our confidence. The very nature of standing in front of a group of people and baring your soul through song is incredibly vulnerable.
It takes a brave person to do it. And we sometimes wonder, am I brave enough? Am I confident enough?
The good news?
Confidence isn’t something you have. It’s something you learn.
Albert Bandura proved throughout his studies that you can grow your self-efficacy.
Through practical steps, you can increase your belief in yourself.
Remember, this isn’t woo-woo stuff. These behaviors are shown to increase confidence, proven over decades of research.
Below are 4 strategies to increase self-efficacy, and my suggestions for translating them to your work as a singer.
1. Mastery Experiences
Another word could be “successful experiences”. If one night you learn to cook dinner without burning the pan, you’re less likely to order takeout the next.
Experiencing Mastery Experiences is the most effective way of developing a strong sense of self-efficacy. Performing a task successfully once increases your belief that you can do it again.
Mastery Experiences for Singing:
Spend more time singing. Work with a vocal coach on the techniques that are hardest for you, and continue working them until they feel comfortable. The more you experience success alone in your lessons, the more you will expect success when you sing for an audience.
Work on building a “master repertoire” of songs that you know you perform well. When you’re feeling less than confident, pull out one of these standbys. Whether you perform them, or just use them to calm your nerves, singing a song you know sounds awesome will remind you that you got the skills!
2. Social Modeling
Bandura states: "Seeing people similar to oneself succeed by sustained effort raises observers' beliefs that they too possess the capabilities … to succeed."
Ummm, what does this mean in non-psychologist speak?
It’s that feeling of: “Well, if he can do it, I can do it, too!”
When you see someone who, like yourself, has never performed before singing in front of people, it makes you believe you too can take that risk.
Social Modeling for Singers:
Seek out singers who are at the same place as you are in their journey. If you are an absolute beginner, seek out beginners. If you don’t know any other singers, perhaps your vocal coach could introduce you to another student? Share each other’s success and challenges. Hearing about their successes can push you to do the same!
Try to catch live music regularly, especially small, local acts. When you only see famous people perform, it sends the message that you don’t get to perform until you have “arrived”. This simply isn’t true! Watch “regular” people perform, and you’ll find performing isn’t a pipe dream.
3. Social Persuasion
Everyone feels down about themselves sometimes. When that happens, you need a supportive voice to remind you how far you’ve come and where you are going.
Bandura says that this isn’t just a momentary fix: it makes you more likely to succeed. Verbal encouragement helps you overcome self-doubt, and focus on your goals.
Social Persuasion for Singers:
Everyone needs a support network. Far and away the most valuable person you can add to your team is a vocal coach. They will be the supportive voice you need to hear. They will also give you the practical help of recognizing and building up your strengths, while improving the skills that need work. If you’re still looking for a vocal coach to add to your team, click here for more info.
4. Psychological Responses
Moods, stress, and physical and emotional reactions can all impact how a person feels about their abilities.
If you feel sick to your stomach every time you step on stage, naturally you won’t want to do it too often.
Fortunately, just like you can learn the skills to be a better performer, you can learn skills to minimize negative moods. Training yourself to feel positive moods when doing something difficult builds your confidence that you can do it again!
Psychological Responses for Singers:
Even the most practiced performers get stage fright sometimes. But calming tension before a show is very doable. A warm up routine like this one will get you centered before you step on stage.
Embracing an enjoyable ritual, like sipping your favorite tea while listening to inspiring music, can make you look forward to this time instead of dreading it.
Your vocal coach can work with you to find the calming techniques best for you.
You Can Increase Your Confidence Today
We think of confidence as something a lucky few are born with, but as we learned, that’s just not true.
It’s a skill you learn, just like improving your skills as a singer.
I just gave you 4 proven strategies to increase your confidence.
Pick one, pick all of them, but do something today. Imagine being able to say at the end of the day that you believe in yourself more than you did this morning!
You have that power.
And the more you practice these strategies, the more you’ll sound like The Little Engine That Could.
But instead of saying:
“I think I can, I think I can…”
You’ll be saying:
“I know I can, I KNOW I can….”