The feeling of moving back home was exciting, freeing, and terrifying. We both rationally understood it would be a struggle to start from scratch, but at least we would be cradled by our wonderful and loving support system while we got on our feet. We also struggled with the idea of what people may think about us moving home. I would allow damaging, untrue thoughts to run between my ears in a constant loop. I imagined people thinking we ‘failed’ as musicians and are living too unconventionally for our age. I foresaw having awkward conversations with friends about what we are doing now that we are home and what our plans are for the future. I could hear everyone, even strangers, thinking disapproving thoughts about our lifestyle choices. Although I was persuasively calm and confident on the outside, I kept a tightly sealed soundproof door behind my eyes to keep the violently loud voices isolated to merely thrash about brain. I got sick and began cultivating a subtle, consistent headache in the back of my neck. I was worried about everything and driving myself into a slight fit of insanity. My mind was working overtime to rationalize and suppress extreme feelings of worthlessness and self-doubt. Even the things that bring me the greatest joy were hard to stomach due to these nagging voices that kept whispering “You should be doing.. x, y, z”, “You should be better than this”, or “You’re wasting your time.”
This does have to do with songwriting, just bear with me…
Luckily my mother-in-law (I can say that now!) gave me a wonderful book called ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’ by Brene Brown. Surprisingly, I wasn’t as resistant to the idea of confronting my fears as I was to the idea of reading what I perceived to be a ‘self help’ book, but not ever having read one I decided to give it a try. After reading the first page I felt like she was talking directly to me in such a clear, honest way that seemed to shine light on the feelings I was having. I could go on and on about the wonders I’ve found in this book, but the chapter that really stopped me in my tracks was the topic of authenticity. Brene defines authenticity as ‘the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are’. That idea resonated so strongly with me; I immediately began to see flashes of every aspect of my life that I measure in comparison to the lives of others. And in this time of my most notable soul-searching struggles, I learned that I need the courage to consciously choose how I want to live without submitting to a culture that wants me to ‘fit in’ and ‘people-please’ all the time. I realized that I have just been swimming drowning in an ocean of shame, allowing every negative thought I had about myself, my abilities, and my passion funnel in over my head until I couldn’t breathe anymore. Believing these thoughts is what keeps my head underwater and I was making myself physically and emotionally sick because of it.
I decided that in this new year, I would dig deep and think about each aspect of my life in relation to what I was reading about authenticity. Music is one of the most important parts of my life and also one of the most uncertain at times. As proud of our music as we both are, Scott and I have been in conflict with our direction as musicians for quite some time. Not constant conflict, but even after accomplishing so much, we seemed to be travelling in a big circle only to find ourselves having the same heart-wrenching conversation again and again. Although a variety of ‘last straws’ initiated each conversation, it always rooted in our self-doubt and worth as musicians. No matter how good our songs were or how distinct we developed our own sound we couldn’t seem to own our creativity. We never felt like enough. Why??
In a world where we tirelessly compare ourselves to others it is extremely hard to be our honest, raw selves. Especially when you are a creative. It is so much easier to wear the many masks that help us to ‘fit in’ with the crowd and just direct our efforts to pleasing other people so that our different, eccentric, quirky selves are not always under a microscope. It is easier to wear this armor than to take the chance of feeling threatened or vulnerable due to the judgement of others. But one extremely powerful thing I learned from Brene is that feeling vulnerable is a part of feeling self-doubt, fear, and shame, but it is also the birthplace of love, empathy, and belonging. As a songwriter, it is so extremely difficult to play your song for other people, whether on a stage or on a YouTube video. You are allowing yourself to be vulnerable and open yourself up to criticism and judgement. But the courage it takes to own your music is one of the bravest things us songwriters can do. In the book Brene says ‘You have to be brave with your life so that others can be brave with theirs.’ As scary as it is, showing this kind of vulnerability and courage with your songwriting is an inspiration to others and will help fight the fear of failure.
In times when you are most vulnerable, be your most authentic self. Be who you are and don’t apologize for it. Own it. Write the songs that speak your truth and don’t apologize for them. Own them. Whether this is your hobby or passion, why suffocate it due to the fear of not being enough? Why stifle your creativity because it may not meet our culture’s perfectly packaged standards? Your story is worth telling and when you stay true to yourself, you have the ability to pour so much light into the world. Believing in your creative power is your authenticity as a songwriter.
After reading Brene’s book I felt I finally could address this festering problem we’ve been having in a new way. We each talked openly about why we play music and what we honestly want from our music. No quick fixes to just work toward the abstract goal of being a real musician, and who even knows what that means? Owning our authenticity as musicians meant setting a goal that was rooted in our values.
We came up with:
Belonging to a community of creatives that share our passion for music.
And that’s it. It’s not about writing the next best pop love song so that we can get our song on the radio. It’s not about trying to impress people with our newest spin on a cover. This is about us now. Our music is about what we believe in. We are going to fall back into the trap of fear and self-doubt, but who doesn’t? All I know is that I feel like a weight has been lifted off my chest and I can finally give myself permission to own who I am and not have to apologize for it.
*I highly highly suggest reading Brene Brown’s book: The Gifts of Imperfection