Tonight, I'll attempt to answer a question that's been on my mind for weeks, and that is:
what is everyone so anxious about?!
According to the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America), approximately 18% of the US population is affected by an anxiety disorder. That means, almost every one in five people you know suffer from anxiety.
Although I was never clinically diagnosed with anxiety, I've exhibited symptoms since I was 18. Anxiety manifested itself in my social interactions, schoolwork and sleep patterns. I constantly felt as though I wasn't doing enough to "keep up", so consequently, I wanted to give up. Social media became prevalent a couple of years into this, and it only added to the problem. I began avoiding Facebook and Instagram for fear of feeling worse about my circumstance or situation.
But why? And for that matter, who cares?
Because in comparison, maybe I was totally inadequate and just a nobody. Worse yet, maybe I was just average. No one wants to be categorized as average. These were thoughts that would tear through my mind and as a result, I quit singing entirely for two years. I lost my passion. In retrospect, I realize that probably wasn't the best idea, but at the time I couldn't bear to hear myself sing another note. It was a very somber time in my life, and I couldn't get myself to buck up.
This brings me to Malcolm Gladwell's theory of 10,000 hours of practice. His theory is that only through continuous practice are we able to master our craft. To classify as a master, one has to complete somewhere around 10,000 hours of practice. Why 10,000 hours? Gladwell says,"the closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation seems to play." So, moral of the story: keep up with your practice if you want to be better than average. (If you haven't read the book Outliers, where this theory is fully divulged, I strongly recommend it.)
I finally came back to singing after a brief stint in real estate post college. A friend of mine encouraged me to join in on a jazz jam one night after a few whiskeys, and it reawakened my passion with a fresh perspective. Shout out to Sheridan for the encouragement!
Let's talk about "perfection."
What defines perfection, anyway? Is there a perfect way of expressing ourselves? No. I suppose there are technicalities to uphold that contribute to the quality of our work, but it's the purpose we need to hold close to our hearts. Perfection can act as an inhibitor, so set reasonable goals and expectations for the most productive results.
When my students come into my classroom (or living room/kitchen, depending on which location you're at!), I tell them to leave their anxieties at the door.
This is a safe space. Sometimes it's as simple as knowing that in the presence of a guide, you're able to experiment freely.
To combat anxiety (specifically practice induced), I take a disciplined approach that goes a little something like this:
How to deal with anxiety:
1. Clear and prepare the space
2. Focus your practice with both technical exercises and repertoire
3. Fully engage yourself. Don't neglect anything! The mastery is in the details
4. Familiarize yourself with your habits and journal them
5. Have fun and improvise!