Every once in a while someone will give me a very nice compliment about my abilities, tell me I’m great.  But the truth is that such compliments are very confusing to me.  What’s confusing about being called “great” at something?

 

If I were to have a stroke and could’t do it anymore, would I still be “great at it?”  Nope.  So what would I be then?

 

I think when I was a kid I both did and didn’t feel great about myself.  I knew I could do things other people couldn’t do.  I also knew I wasn’t very popular and I wasn’t very happy.

 

I saw creating as a way to influence peoples’ opinions of me.  If I could create and do great things, they might think I was great.  Then my confusing and unreliable self-impressions would be resolved in a positive way.

 

Over time I have gotten very good at certain things.  In some cases I’ve gotten as good as I wanted to get.  And while it does put to rest the question of whether I could do what I set out to do, it didn’t resolve my identity issues.

 

The better I get at doing things, the harder it is to reconcile the fact that I’m not “becoming” any greater myself.  I don’t seem to change in any fundamental way.    I’m just a person.


No matter how many compliments I get on my work, I still remain a flawed human being.  I still remember things I’ve said and done that I regret.  I can’t be like the great things I create: finished and perfect forever.  

 

It’s a bit of a heartbreaker.  There was a time when it seemed within reach to become great.  But in reality, not only was it never possible, it wouldn’t have been good if it was.

 

Focusing on doing great things is actually a much better challenge.  Even if I become incapacitated, I might still do great things with other peoples’ help.  When doing great is the focus, it doesn’t matter who’s doing it.

 

It’s been great.

 

***

News From a Jazz Musician Who Writes Books

I completed work on a new version of the Front Porch Session Players song "Oriental Rug."  I've been working on this track since last July!  You can hear it here.

You can see previous features and interviews on my press tab.

Comments

Darcy B Hamlin April 17, 2019 @05:06 am
 

Like you, I'm sure a big part of the reason I pursued performance was because of the applause, the approval, the chance to impress someone and therefore validate my own worth. Still is, probably. Being a musician is a really huge part of my identity. When I feel insecure about my musicianship, I do feel insecure about my worth as a person. It is really good to remind myself that there are other parts of me, but it's difficult. Having a life outside of work is REALLY helpful. My kids ground me in the present moment and remind me that they love me no matter what, even if all I could play was Hot Cross Buns. :)

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