Be honest. Are you afraid to play in front of other people?
You're not alone. Lot's of guitar players, young and old, lock themselves up in the bedroom because they feel insecure about their playing. They get anxious when it's time to show off what they've been practicing so hard on for weeks. And the anxiety shuts them down COLD.
I personally know what it's like to feel insecure about yourself. For me it used to be looks. But it doesn't matter what area it is, it's not a good feeling.
Listen, it's going to be hard to give you a quick fix for that (there ain't one). But I'll tell you something that may help.
A long time ago, when I was in high school, I was very unsure of myself. I looked to everyone else to make decisions and tried my best to just fit in. And it was a losing strategy. The insecurity never went away, while the situation only got worse.
You see, while everyone else was taking on the challenges of life (and growing because of it), I was still stuck in my shell. I tried to play things safe so that I would never have to "fail", never have to look bad, never have to face criticism.
But that never works. Not if you want a fulfilling life. You HAVE TO fail sometimes in life. That's how you get anywhere. That's how you allow BIG things to happen. BY NOT HOLDING BACK. (read this until you get it)
Think of it this way. You have three basic choices in life:
1. Succeed by doing the difficult and failing a lot (fail less if you don't hold back)
2. Settle for less, and rationalize it (most common choice)
3. Look for shortcuts (buying effects to cover up shitty playing, choosing crime, violence, get rich quick, etc)
The only real choice is number 1. Number 2 will leave you with a life full of regrets, and number 3 is not worth it because any success you get usually doesn't last long.
So that leaves choice number 1: Doing the difficult.
Learning the guitar is difficult. That's why people are impressed when you can play it.
Putting yourself on the line by expressing yourself on guitar is difficult. That's why people respect you when you can do it 100%, even if they don't like your stuff.
Not giving a shit what other people think is difficult. That's why Lady Gaga (and before her Madonna) is a huge star right now. She doesn't care about fitting in or being criticized.
You see, it comes down to HOW BAD do you want to become the guitarist you know you can be? Are you willing to put aside your ego and look stupid sometimes?
Because I guarantee you WILL. Not always, but occassionally. And there's no way around it. You will screw stuff up SOME of the time getting to where you wanna get. Success is NEVER smooth. Don't believe for a second you can get what you want without some pain along the way. Real life doesn't work that way.
Unfortunately, I found that out the hard way. By choosing number 2, settling for less than who I could become and pretending it was okay, I never let myself play guitar with absolute freedom. To play the way I wanted, no matter who was watching.
One day I realized what I am telling you now:
IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT PEOPLE THINK.
And that's the honest truth. Yes, it's a tired old cliche, and yes, you've probably heard it a million times. And hell, maybe right now it even sounds like a load of crap to you.
But if you take an honest look at the people who get what they want in life, it's dead on accurate.
And ask yourself this question: Are you DOING it? Are you still listening to what people say instead of ignoring 99% of the chit-chat and going for yours anyway? In life and with your music?
Few people are. Most are still letting the mere possibility of being judged STOP them from letting go with their playing. Stop them from creating the art they are capable of.
But thing is, people will love you one day, and hate you the next. It's always changing based on the smallest of things. Things you really can't control it. Someone could have just broken up with her boyfriend and she will say your music sucks. That's just how it is.
I mean, think about it. Even the biggest baddest motherf--kers who ever picked up the guitar like Hendrix, Yngwie, SRV, or [insert your favorite guitar player]... Even THOSE DUDES get criticized constantly.
Are you telling me you'll somehow escape being judged when the "Guitar Gods" ALL receive a ton of negative criticism?
Exactly. We both know that's impossible. There's always SOMEONE who won't like you. And it's usually the people who are most jealous of you, seriously. That's life.
Are you really going to let your self-confidence be controlled by something as fickle as other people's opinions? To have your confidence fluctuate up and down like a roller coaster?
Because if you do, you'll never be in control. Other people will have you by the balls and you won't ever know the freedom and peace of mind of being your own boss.
Maybe you haven't realized something yet: Nobody really gives a shit about how much you suck.
It's YOU who gives a shit. Everyone else is too busy thinking about themselves, and they will probably quickly forget any screwups you might have by the next day.
How many concerts have you been to? And from all those concerts, how much do you remember people screwing up tiny things in their playing? Or were you instead too mesmerized by the experience of seeing someone perform his heart out on stage, too distracted by the girl with the huge titties pushing up next to you, too drunk to even notice that the guy missed the D note in his solo by a mile?
Nobody gives a shit. And neither should you.
Do your thing. Play however the hell you want because you want to. Realize that you at least have the balls to tackle something as difficult as the guitar. That you are a bad motherfucker who sticks with things when they get difficult, and then overcomes them.
That's who you are, and you're goddamn proud of it.
And if you screw it up every now and then, well then you get to. Because people who call the shots in their own life can do whatever the f--k they want, as long as they're not disrespecting other people.
And you're not. In fact, you're doing people a FAVOR by playing them music. Music that brightens up their day, and gets them in a good mood. That takes their mind off of their boring or stressful lives. That's giving Tom and Sally a chance to hook up after watching you do your thing on stage.
Remember this: Music is a gift.
And it's VALUABLE. They ought to pay you money and shower you with thank yous, much less criticize you. Realize that you're not doing anyone any favors by holding back your art. Give to the world, and you will see the rewards of doing that.
And you don't have to do stuff overnight. Just make it a goal to bust out of your insecure shell over time.
You see, half of this is about training. Everything from guitar to your personal insecurities, is about habits. If you're used to feeling insecure in the area of your playing, chances are that's not going to change overnight. You have to slowly TRAIN yourself to become more and more comfortable in situations where you get anxious.
Do small things little by little that push you out of your comfort zone. Maybe start by recording your music and sharing it online. Once you get the hang of that, then maybe try a video. After that, then maybe play for your friends. Then maybe at the park. Then maybe at a bar for money...
You get the idea.
That's how I broke out of mine. I just slowly pushed myself to do things I knew would give me some anxiety, but that would make my life better if I did it. Things that would make me grow, but where I also might get criticized, might fail, or might look stupid.
Realize that those are usually the EXACT things you need to being doing, right now. But trust that as long as you know what you want, you will eventually get it.
I know you will. And I have faith because I was there once too many years ago.
I wish you guys the best.
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