We can go from being ecstatic and excited to feel like giving up in a matter of days (or hours) as a musician.
.. it can often feel like this:
Don't worry - you're not alone if you relate!
Remember, we hit some (wonderful) highs - such as the adrenaline rush of DJing or making music - being creative - but there are many lows that bring us hurtling back down to earth or questioning our path.
Whether we're starting out or have been doing this for a good long while; navigating the a career in music is a roller coast ride to say the least.
"Even the legends you look up to struggle with this!"
We all feel it - and I mean everyone - even the legends you look up to.
I've had both deep and passing conversations with many people in music - new and long time legends - about their frustrations, when feeling like giving up, discussions about money, being angry/upset/fed up, jealous even - yes even the big dogs get jealous!
And it's not because they haven't achieved amazing things - they are legends after all - it's because they are levelling up or changing direction: Because in an ever changing world, and therefore industry it's inevitable we'll need to grow/develop/change direction (sometimes only slightly) to keep up with developing technology, trends and a generation that are more clued up on all of the above.
Animation by Nikolai Wärnberg
Also, we're human - we change too. We learn, grow, develop and our tastes, feelings and views change, this is a different kind of levelling up and is part of the ride.
Levelling up & navigating your way through unknown territory
Imagine a video game - every time you level up, or you go to a new part of the video game, you're probably not going to collect all the gold coins or beat the big boss and win the title first time round right?
It might take a couple of goes at that level/in that new part of the game (industry) until you explore, understand exactly what is expected of you to win that round/level, learn some new skills and practice winning!
In order to level up we need to do:
2. Gain an Understanding
3. Develop Skills
5. Complete the level (and repeat)
*Cue Mario level up soundtrack*
Well... sometimes (honestly, a lot of the time) our mind gets in our way - we're filled with self-doubt (consciously or subconsciously) and our brain turns to:
Fight, flight or freeze response.
We are human after all... understanding how our brains/bodies our wired can help...
We run, we do nothing, or, we fight!
Imagine you're in real physical danger - your brain goes into auto-pilot - safety-mode - and your body reacts to the signals that your brain is sending it.
A big angry hungry animal comes towards you:
What do you do?
A. Flee: Run as fast as you can; get the hell out of there.
B. Freeze: Close your eyes and hope for the best or pretend it's not happening.
C. Face it: Fight or face the animal / incoming danger; maybe it's not as scary as you fear, maybe you're stronger than you think, maybe it isn't a fight the animal is after at all, maybe you face it in a different way - but you deal with it.
Face it, Flee or Freeze
(Fight, Flight or Freeze)
Exactly the same thing happens when we experience the feelings of self-doubt...
Self-Doubt: "Oh I'm going to fail / everyone is better than me / there is no space for me here"
= Safety-Brain: "I'm in danger of feeling embarrassed / failing / looking stupid / losing / getting hurt and this means bad feelings I may have felt before and/or I'm scared of feeling"
= (the same feelings as) "DANGER"
= Safety-Action: "I can either RUN from this danger (flight), do nothing / ignore this and hope this danger it goes away (freeze) or I can fight / face whatever this danger is that is threatening me (fight)
Ask yourself: Is it a danger, or a challenge you're facing?
Freezing or running might work in some danger situations, especially if there is a physical danger - but if we run or we freeze in the face of a challenge (because feelings are not a physical danger; eg we've felt them before and we can feel them again, they are just a challenge) we do not move forward.
If we freeze or run from a challenge, we do not move forward.
MENTAL HEALTH NOTE:
Taking a break is (more than) fine
This isn't freezing - it's needed: be kind to yourself and allow breaks whilst you're on this (crazy) ride - it can make the rest of the rollercoaster more bearable.
It's only if we get off the rollercoaster (flight) or emergency stop the rollercoaster with no intention of restarting it (freeze), then we do not experience the rollercoaster.
You might be thinking, well, these two options might mean no more troughs - lows, HURRAH!
But it also means no more peaks (those epic highs and experiences we love so much)....
The only way we guarantee that we don't reach the highest of the highs is by getting off the rollercoaster completely, and that is the only way we guarantee failure.
"The only way we guarantee failure is by giving up."
Often, there is an even BIGGER high incoming after a low (think of it as a take off, a run up if you will or even the calm before the storm).
You might be giving up just before you were about to reach gold / the goal - you've come this far, why give up now?
But.... the self doubt is strong in this one!
Let's face it - we're creatives, so we are sensitive souls (whether we're pulling bass faces and handing out DnB attitude or not) and it's hard to have that thick skin we're always told we need in a world of critics and social media.
It's even more difficult in a world where social media and the internet has made everything and everyone more accessible: Including criticism and others for comparison.
MENTAL HEALTH NOTE:
Dealing with comparison: DON'T go compare
Your path, roller coaster - whatever you want to call it - is completely different from anyone else's (and you don't know where they have been already or where they will go in the future) - plus more often than not, people only post or talk about the best bits.
Dealing with criticism: Know there is plenty of good (more) to outweigh the bad
People love to complain about what they don't like - it's only occasionally people shout about the things (and music) they love online, because they are too busy just enjoying it!
With that in mind, I will say it again: social media and the internet has made everything and everyone more accessible - and this doesn't have to be a bad thing, because that means you too.
This a tool at our disposal to create incredible networks and reach new amazing audiences - we have free promotional tools at our fingertips!
Open up to the possibilities it holds, grow with it, learn about it .... use it.
.... Remember, if there are tools or areas we don't get/feel comfortable with yet, we:
2. Gain an Understanding
3. Develop Skills
4. Practice (gain experience)
5. Complete the level (level up, and repeat)
To Explore & Gain an Understanding: Take a course written by someone that gets it.
To Develop Skills and Practice: Learn from or work with an industry professional who has experience in the skill or area in which you want to develop.
Time to level up.
Further reading: If you find the self doubt is coming from within - check out my article: 'Why creatives are our own worse critic' - this might help you understand and be a little kinder to your lovely self!