Be Your Own Teacher, Part 2

Last week, I wrote about Becoming Your Own Best Teacher by discerning amongst the various voices in our heads. Today in Part 2 we’ll use the tools of working with the Inner Critic and  Best Self for listening to recordings of ourselves, and becoming our own best teacher. 

I can’t tell you how common it is to be working with a singer and they set up a recording device to record our session. Then at some point in our relationship together they confess that they never or rarely listen to the recordings. Listening to ourselves is one of the best ways to be our own teacher – we can listen and diagnose and problem solve and correct all on our own. For free! We know we should use this tool, but what gets in the way? 

What kinds of thoughts and emotions do you have when you listen to your latest coaching or lesson? In fact, what kinds of thoughts and emotions do you have when you even contemplate listening to yourself? What words or sentences run through your head? Are you critical? Do you cringe? Do you hear the good music making you are doing in addition to the areas you want to improve?

Listening to ourselves causes discomfort – for many of us, all we can hear are the flaws and imperfections. This is the Inner Critic at work.

Being critical is not the problem, the problem is that the Inner Critic can shout so loud and take up all the space so we lose perspective and our ability to teach ourselves.

I’m not suggesting that using recordings of ourselves can completely do away with the need for a teacher. From an expert teacher you will get technical solutions that you can’t figure out on your own. From an expert coach you will get new ideas and inspiration and challenges. We all need this kind of external feedback. However, from your expert self, you can gain confidence, authenticity, inner strength, and the gratification of doing it yourself.

Follow the same steps from last week’s newsletter to disentangle from the Inner Critic and create some space to listen and teach yourself:

  1. Identify which voice is speaking. While prepping to listen to yourself, or when you are listening to your recording, notice your inner dialogues and feelings. What language is used? Good/bad, right/wrong dichotomy is the Inner Critic. Anything mean or rude that you wouldn’t say to a friend signals the Inner Critic’s voice. A feeling of anxiety or shame indicates the Inner Critic.

(Regarding the good/bad dichotomy, yes, it is true that there will be times that we play/sing wrong notes. Those are ‘wrong’. When deciphering if the Inner Critic is triggered by this, pay attention to the internal feeling. If the Inner Critic is at work, you might feel bad about yourself, or anxious, or guilty, or mad. If your Best Self acknowledges the mistake, there is usually more compassion or distance from the mistake. You won’t take it personally or feel that it reflects on you as a person.)

  1. Make friends with the Inner Critic. Why is it talking to you in this way? Remember, its goal is to keep you safe. Can you address any of its concerns? I often find that my Inner Critic really wants me to improve, but it is trying to help in a counter-productive way by using pressure and judgement. Having a conversation with it takes the pressure off and then I can address the problem more effectively, without the Inner Critic judging every mistake I make.
  2. Connect with your Inner Teacher, Best Self, or other voice of wisdom. Putting on my ‘teacher hat’ helps me teach myself. It gives me space and distance from my own problems. Ask yourself, “if I were teaching someone else with this same problem, what would I suggest? How would I treat a student or colleague with this issue? How would I feel towards them if they were having difficulty?” Some feelings you might have when working from your Inner Teacher or Best Self: compassion, patience, curiosity, determination, focus.
  3. Rinse and Repeat. Listening to ourselves and using this tool to teach ourselves is a skill, just like learning our notes and rhythms. 

And if you are interested in learning more about your Inner Critic and Best Selves, please check out the upcomingMusician's Mastermind, starting September 28th.