I’m speaking from experience when I say that every singer goes through discouragement. Even the amazing ones. It’s a paralyzing emotion, and it could easily derail your progress whether you are a new singer or a seasoned performer. Having been a singer my entire life, I have had a lot of brushes with discouragement – solos I didn’t get, competitions I didn’t win, reviews that were less than kind. It’s all part of the game. But I got the full picture of what discouragement can do to a singer when I started to teach. And I have to say, there are not a lot of things that are more painful for a vocal instructor than to groom a student from day one, only to have them go through a bad day and decide to just give up on the whole thing.
I don’t have a formula for overcoming discouragement. However, I’ve had some experience with discouragement, and I’ve also had some experience with getting over it. Here’s what worked for me. Maybe it will work for you, too.
Get to the source. If you are discouraged about your singing, figure out what it is that you are particularly challenged by. Is it a certain song or genre? Is it a range of notes? Was it a part or a solo you didn’t get? Or is it that you feel like you’re stuck in a rut and haven’t made any progress? Identifying the source of your discouragement may help you to identify the problem for your vocal coach, who may be able to help you. If you’re not already getting voice lessons, identifying your struggles can help you narrow down your search for a singing teacher who can help you reach your goals.
Get a plan. If you’re determined to become a better singer, you need a plan of action. Contact a vocal coach who can help you. Make it a priority to schedule your voice lessons. Carve out time in your day to practice. If needed, find a person who can hold you accountable. Remember that your brain will always default to the path of least resistance, so the more you involve other people to help you and the less you try to do it all on your own, the easier it will be for you to succeed.
Get real. Listen. If you just started singing very recently and haven’t had a lot of success, it wouldn’t be realistic for you to make a goal of trying to become America’s next singing sensation. You may be genuinely talented, but chances are you’re going to need a whole lot of training and preparation, not to mention truckloads of sheer luck, to get that far. Put it this way: there are people who have been trying to get there since they were little kids, and who still haven’t made it big. Set yourself up for success. Consider some more realistic, achievable goals. That’s how you build confidence.
Get out there. Find a local singing group, choir or music class that can expose you to other people who share the same skill level and goals as you. Note: find a group that matches your skill level and desired commitment level. It’s good to find a group that challenges you a little bit, but if there’s a huge gap between you and the others in the group, you’ll just find yourself feeling even more discouraged than when you started. The idea is to belong to a community that is supportive and fun, not high-pressure and intimidating.
Get moving. Sometimes, singers get so discouraged that they end up feeling trapped in a downward spiral of really toxic self-criticism. This is the worst kind of discouragement – the kind that you give yourself. The second you feel yourself going down this road, get up and do something productive. Go for a run, sing your scales, bake a cake, basically do anything moderately productive that you feel comfortable doing. The key is not to sit there wallowing in your own negativity. It goes nowhere. It doesn’t make you a better singer, or a better person. A cake, on the other hand…that might do the trick. 🙂