Boost Confidence By Replacing Expectations

Today, we continue our discussion of how to prepare for performances in a calm and dependable way.  If you recall from the article, 7 Strategies for a Great Pre-Performance Routine, the first step is Calming your Monkey Chatter.  Next, our focus is on expectations and their relationship to music performance anxiety.  Having expectations of success or a good outcome sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it?  So why would I want to replace these expectations and what, if anything, do they have to do with performance anxiety?

All good questions!  Many musicians confuse having expectations with having goals or having confidence.  “If I expect to win or perform well, isn’t it the same as being confident I will win or perform well?”  The kind of expectations musicians usually have are strict and unreasonable—such as having to win the audition, letting a mistake dismantle your confidence, letting your inability to perform a section like you practice derail the entire performance.  The primary focus of most performers’ expectations is on results or the outcomes of performance.  Because of their strict and unreasonable nature, expectations are a huge source of performance anxiety for musicians because they become judgments or demands that you place on your performance.

Why are these judgments or demands so costly?  When your expectations are too strict or high, you have set yourself up for a win or lose proposition.  If you don’t achieve the result you’ve expected, it becomes easy to start doubting your ability and skills.  When you doubt your abilities and skills, your confidence evaporates.

Expectations create pressure, NOT strong belief in your skills!

Check out your expectations.  If your goals focus on results, you constantly judge your performances, you’re never satisfied with your performing, you become extremely upset when you don’t perform up to your standard, you lose confidence when you don’t achieve your standard, you expect to attain a particular result, or you feel the need to live up to the expectations of others, then you need to take a long, hard look at your expectations and consider replacing them with what will lead to confident performing.

Q: So if having strict or unreasonable expectations sucks the life out of your confidence, what will boost your confidence?

A: Performance cues

Performance cues are any thoughts or images that help you perform.  They are objectives that help you focus on your performance and what’s really necessary for you to perform freely, expressively, and confidently.   Performance cues also keep you focused in the here and now—on each measure as it unfolds.

What thoughts or images can help you perform?  Some examples include:

  • I trust my practice to be good enough for today.
  • I concentrate on taking a full, deep breath that makes my playing/singing soar.
  • I see myself—I feel myself—performing with complete trust and confidence.
  • I embody the way I want to be when I perform.  For ex:  bold, engaging, free

To boost your confidence replace your expectations with performance cues.  Your first task is to identify what cues help you focus on for your instrument and your performing.   When you complete this first task, please share with the rest of us.  Leave your cues in a comment!

Next time we will discuss really Taking Control of Your Confidence.

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  1. Thank you very much dear Dr. Allan. All I have read in your articles had direct relationship with my feeling during performance.

  2. Thank you very much dear Dr. Allan. All I have read in your articles had direct relationship with my feeling during performance. At first, I thought that these kind of problems are just for me. But now, I found that such a problem happens for lots of other musician and there are systematic ways of solving them.

    • Dr. Diana Allan says:

      Good to hear from you Simin! You are certainly not alone. Many performers–musicians, athletes, and businessmen and women are challenged by the pressure of performing. Please catch me up about your performance.

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