Author: Campbell, Bruce

Confidence is Sometimes a Shaky Edifice

Some folks wake up exuding confidence and keep on exudiní all day long. I have days like that, I guess, but itís not every day.

If you have a normally upbeat outlook, it doesnít take too much to get you feeling like youíve got it made. Just a few affirmations of your worth, your skills, your talent or your charisma, and youíre recharged. While in the freshly charged mode, youíre impervious to negative influences.

It takes a solid self-confidence to play music well. But unless youíre one of those supremely gifted musicians, that confidence can ebb and flow a bit. One good night and youíre banging on the door to the Ryman, incredulous that they havenít called you first.

Have an off night though, and you can feel like youíre playing with oven mitts on, after
gargling with Drano, and it can be hard to shake it.

I had a, uh, mediocre performance at a festival once. Well, I didnít stink up the jointand maybe even no one noticed (please refrain from sending mr cards and letters telling me which performance you think it is Ė Itíll kill me!), but it was ďoffĒ enough that it shook me.
For a couple of weeks afterwards, I had trouble finding any mojo when I was playing.

Everything was laborious, and stiffly mechanical, like I had decided to switch from playing right-handed to left-handed.

ďItís gone.Ē, I despaired. ďI had a good run, and some good fun, but itís gone now.Ē

Itís a terrible feeling when you think youíve been pretty good at something, and then something (a comment, a jeer, a heckle or your own fevered mind) gets into your head and tells you that youíve been wrong all along.

Being shown up by a better musician doesnít do this. Iíve always known there are players better than I, and I have treasured every chance to play with them. When I held my own, itís a great confidence booster, but being unable to keep up is no source of shame Ė just an impetus to improve.

No, the confidence thief strikes by denying you territory you thought you had already staked out. You thought you were THIS good, and suddenly, youíre proved wrong (or so it seems.) The knees buckle, your cheeks flush and your eyes get red.

This may be the very reason some folks stop playing. They grow weary of the emotional roller coaster. But you canít dread the downtimes so much that you deny yourself the good times. And know this Ė in the bluegrass community, at least, there
are many, many more people that will offer you kind encouragement than a sneer, ever.

You just gotta climb back on your horse. I better stop now Ė Iím getting this close to breaking into a Journey song.

Posted:  7/24/2013

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