Prevent Insecurity From Getting The Best of Your Singing

Young singer in the moment
It’s time to address mental blocks to singing as much as we address breath support and technique –says Jaime Babbitt

If you’re alive (and I’ll bet you are since you’re reading this article), you know what it feels like to feel totally and completely insecure.

Congratulations! (For being alive, that is.) Dead people don’t feel that way so consider yourself lucky that you get to experience this and work on it.

It’s bad enough feeling insecurity creep up in your daily dealings; when it rears its ugly head while you’re singing and making music, it can feel like too much to bear.

Okay. Breathe. I got you.

Firstly, know in your bones that you’re not alone. Every singer and musician I know feels this way fairly regularly…the experienced ones, the famous ones and the super-overconfident-I’m-the-greatest-thing-since-sliced-bread ones.

Secondly, doubting one’s self-worth and creating self-talk like, “Man, I’m not that good…”, or, “What the %$#*&%^%$ do I have to say, anyway?” did not just occur organically when you first opened your mouth to talk or sing as a kid.

I’ll bet you just talked and sang and laughed and had fun. I’ll bet $100 that this doubt, anxiety and fear around singing originated somewhere outside of you. Aha! Now we’re getting somewhere.

My story: My dad was a joker; he’d say to me, “Can you sing solo? So low that I can’t hear you? Bwahahaha…” Funny, right? Maybe. I took it as a joke because he sounded like a dying moose when he sang. Still, seeds of insecurity and self-doubt probably took a hold of me then, however small or inconsequential.

Did you have a “so low” moment? Or did anyone ever flat out tell you that you can’t sing?

Be honest and then ask yourself: is this really true, or is it something I was told to believe about myself? My feeling is that most people can sing and that many psychological (and physical) blocks can surely come from others’ interjections and judgments.

When I work with my clients, we address these blocks every bit as much as we address breath support, technique and song interpretation.

So before I give you the three things you can do to sing with more confidence, do this:

*Find The Voice In Your Head Telling You You’re Not Good Enough And Give It a Big Peanut Butter Sandwich. And No Drink.

That way it’ll shut up for a long while, and you can start to replace that voice with a voice that says, “Yes, I can sing! I’ll sing in front of anyone! I like myself and my voice!”

After you say these sentences to yourself over and over, day after day, here are three more things to do:

Celebrate Little Vocal Victories:

• You practiced a whole bunch last week, more than you thought you would.
• Your voice didn’t feel strained after a rehearsal when it had previously.
• Your harmony singing was particularly lovely at choir practice.
• You made it through a challenging song or section and it felt fabulous!

Give yourself credit where credit is due. (And chocolate…always give yourself chocolate.)

But seriously, slather on that credit and praise—don’t be stingy! In part, insecurities come from caring more about what others think of you than what you think of you.

I urge yours to be the most important voice in your head…once you learn to be patient, kind and complimentary with yourself!

Do Things that Scare You. Often.

Once a day is good. Feeling fear and doing things anyway is good practice; it’s practicing how to do scary things, which, like any other practice in your life, makes you better at…whatever you’re practicing.

Also, when you do something scary, you slowly build your confidence. And as your confidence increases, so do your chances of singing better, because you’ll be less concerned about your anxiety level and more concerned with singing you’re a** off and having a great time.

See how that works? And don’t push away the fear and make believe you’re not feeling afraid to sing the National Anthem at your college football game.

Of course you’ll feel all that adrenaline. But let it work for you rather than against you. Trudge on!

Susan David, Ph.D., author of Emotional Agility said, “Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is fear walking.” Boom.

And finally….

P-R-A-C-T-I-C-E!

If you are beyond prepared, with lyrics memorized and vocal improvisations thought through a bit, you’ll have every reason to feel more secure about any performance.

Practice on your lunch break; practice while you wait in your dentist’s office; practice in your car, in the shower, in your head on a crowded train…it all adds up!

So how do you find time to practice in this busy world with people tending to book themselves (and their children) from one end of the day to the other?

Prioritizing, that’s how.

Is singing important enough that you’ll go to bed 40 minutes earlier….or get 40 minutes less sleep?

Will another activity have to be postponed one school year to devote more time to your craft?

Or will you get creative and see how better time management can leave you with enough time for all the things you’d like to do?

When I discovered Bob Dylan, I stayed in my parents’ bedroom every weekday for the entire summer after sixth grade (they had air-conditioning, ha), with my classical guitar, a record player, two of his albums (“Bringing It All Back Home” and “Highway 61 Revisited”!) and a book of his songs with chords and lyrics…and only came out to eat and shower.

Did my friends make fun of me for never hanging out? Yep. Still, I’ll never forget it or regret it.

I urge you all to concentrate on your passion for singing and music, dedicate your time and soul to it and let your voice that you’re developing, the one that has so much to offer the world overshadow the one in your head saying things that may or may not be true.

Hey, if you need to improve, admit that and find someone to help you. We’re right here if you need us!

Written By
Jaime was a Musical Director, coaching voice and performance for Disney and wrote "Working With Your Voice: The Career Guide to Becoming a Professional Singer" (Alfred Publishing). As a session singer, she ‘jingled’ for Coke, Pillsbury, Folgers, Chevrolet, and hundreds more. She’s sung on thousands of live gigs (covers and original music) and toured for years with Leon Russell and Sam Moore. Jaime sang BGVs live and digitally with George Strait, Barbra Streisand, Willie Nelson, Jimmy Webb, Miley & Billy Ray Cyrus, Johnny Mathis, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Willie Nelson and others. She performed off-Broadway in “Search: Paul Clayton”, toured nationally with “Old Jews Telling Jokes” and presently coaches students in voice, performance, beginner guitar/piano, studio singing, songwriting and auditioning in NY, CT, LA, Nashville and virtually. For bookings: www.workingwithyourvoice.com

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