On Intimidation

As a teacher I find it really helpful to do things I’m bad at. As a professional adult it can be easy, and wise, to spend most of my time doing things I’m great at- but then I become a worse teacher. I want to keep experiencing what it feels like to be a beginner again, because having that empathy really helps my students.

When I was a kid I absolutely loved playing soccer. Having not played in over 20 years, I joined a coed recreational soccer team and we just had our first game of the season. I was so totally intimidated, but it went great. I didn’t suck as bad as I feared I would, and everyone was welcoming, encouraging, and fun. Even with all that, the fear in my body was so intense it seemed almost crippling. I wanted to run away so many times.

I want to offer empathy and encouragement to anyone who feels that deep love for music and has a desire to to take it to the next step but feels too intimidated. The way the intimidation the fear felt in my body was really intense but I chose to stay to see what it felt like to be with the fear and keep trying, just like my students do.

If you’re struggling with fear of pursuing your music dreams, here are a few suggestions:

  • Feel it fully. A friend of mine once said “Fear plus breath is excitement.” I was about to jump off a cliff into a lake and I was paralyzed with fear. After he said that, I focused on slow deep breaths. The tight pain of fear loosened and spread into my whole body, and sure enough it felt like excitement.

  • Be a beginner. It’s always way harder to try something new when you’re trying to impress people and seem farther along than you are. Admit to yourself and others that you’re a newbie and you’re intimidated. Give yourself permission to focus on the little things you are capable of, and for that to be good enough.

  • Go for it. Don’t let perfection keep you from things you’re passionate about. Even this morning I thought, “Maybe I won’t go to the soccer game this week. Maybe I’ll quit,” because it’s SO uncomfortable to do something I feel like I suck at. Especially when I love it. But I’m going to go because it matters to me and because I choose not to let intimidation confine me.