DEALING WITH THE FEAR OF “I’M NOT GOOD ENOUGH”

“I’m not good enough.”

When did you last feel like you weren’t good enough? What triggered the feeling?

In her TED Talk researcher and storyteller Brené Brown shares profound insights from her painstaking research into what she calls ‘human connection’. I’ve watched the video several times now. Her take on this feeling of inadequacy, of “I’m not good enough,” is not only powerful – it’s deeply encouraging.

BEING DISCONNECTED CAN FEEL ‘SAFE’ – BEING CONNECTED CAN FEEL ‘EXPOSED’

Since I started teaching piano – back in 1997 – I’ve been aware that I’ve chosen a profession that tends to be more disconnected, than connected. It’s something I’m curious about. And Brené’s TED Talk has fuelled my curiosity further.

I mean, we do so much in isolation. It’s easy, it’s effortless to be ‘disconnected’. The fact is that the deliberate act of being ‘connected’ can place us in situations where there’s a far greater chance of being exposed. Despite investing hugely in my own learning – both in terms of time and finance – and despite having a lot of experience, I sometimes still feel like a fraud. Not with everything I do. Rather with certain areas of what I do. Yet that’s enough to eclipse the things I feel I can do.

Have you ever had a day where that ONE little niggly thing, that made you feel small, overshadowed TEN other good things? I had one of those days earlier this week.

So here’s what I’m saying. If you fear even the smallest things – which, notice, rarely feel like small things – know that you’re not alone. 

The responsibility I feel as director and co-founder of The Curious Piano Teachers is pretty overwhelming. It was one thing to visualise the potential of an online membership site – offering training, support and resources to piano teachers around the world – from the comfort of a coffee shop overlooking the Irish Sea. (Romanticising stuff is bliss!) Yet it’s something totally different when it comes to the DOING:

  • creating videos of my teaching to present to piano teachers around the world – you have no idea how much that’s scared me
  • presenting teaching ideas to camera – surprisingly more daunting than doing it live because, yes, there’s the possiblity to re-watch and nit-pick!
  • creating bespoke resources – what will piano teachers think? Is this a rubbish idea? 
  • being exposed on live webinars and periscope – did you know that my first webinars were entirely scripted?
  • writing blogs – just like this one

So yes, the DOING is definitely more onerous than glamorous. I love it. Really I do. But it’s not easy. I do feel very exposed. Yet I’m learning so much, I’m constantly developing. And what used to feel scary, becomes less scary too.

THE FEAR OF DISCONNECTION

In her groundbreaking research, Brené asked people about connection. Yet – get this, because this is fascinating – what she got were stories about disconnection: the fear of disconnection.

“Is there something about me that – if other people know or see – will lead to me being unworthy of connection?”

Oh my goodness! How many times have I felt like this? How many times have I dreaded messing up? How many times have I literally felt the fear of being exiled from my profession? Dramatic maybe. Yet when I feel “I’m not good enough” there is this tendency to go into overdrive. Does that make sense?

I have no idea how many of you this blog post will resonate with. It doesn’t really matter. Just know that – if you’ve ever felt like you’re not good enough as a piano teacher – I’m writing this with you in mind. Because after all these years, I still feel vulnerable. I even feel vulnerable for admitting that I feel vulnerable.

THE FEAR OF *NOT BEING WORTHY* OF CONNECTION

Brené suggests that our fear of not being worthy of connection is what stops us from connecting. And I get that. I remember taking the plunge in 1998 and heading off, by myself, to my first-ever seminar feeling excited (20%) and terrified (80%).

EXCITED about learning new stuff, excited about the prospect of expanding my – very limited – teaching skills. (And yes, a little curious too!)

TERRIFIED that someone would ask me to do something I couldn’t do, or respond to something I was supposed to know about.

Every year since then, I’ve worked hard. HARD. I’ve pushed myself further than I thought it was possible to go. Yet still I see my journey stretching ahead. There is still so much to learn. So much I want to (need to) develop. And hear me when I say this: I still have those days when my sense of love and belonging in this profession is like a helium-filled balloon that has escaped my grasp.

HOW *WORTHY* OF BELONGING DO YOU FEEL?

Brené’s research revealed that people who have a strong sense of belonging also believe that they’re worthy of belonging.

But there’s more. It would seem that people who have this sense of worthiness also possess these 3 characteristics:

  1. COURAGE – the courage to be imperfect
  2. COMPASSION – be kind to yourself, then you can be kind to others
  3. CONNECTION – be willing to let go of who you think you should be

Honestly? I think I need to nurture my sense of worthiness. Because, for me, it seems like such a lot of what I do hinges on the ‘who I think I should be.’ How about you?

”EXCRUCIATING VULNERABILITY”

Brené suggests that the underpinning element – of this I’m not good enough feeling – is vulnerability. In fact, she describes it as “excruciating vulnerability.”

Yet in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen.

And gosh. That’s hard. Really hard. I realise just how much I’ve suffered from “excruciating vulnerability” throughout 2015.

Brené describes vulnerability as “the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness.” Yet she claims that vulnerability is also “the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging and of love.”

Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they're never weakness - Brené Brown
Tweet quote

LET’S DO THIS TOGETHER

So together, let’s embrace – rather than numb – the vulnerability that each of us feel. None of us are perfect. Whether you’ve been teaching for 2 months, 2 years or over 20 years; whether you have no teaching qualifications or a PhD: it’s always going to be easy to fill in the blank: “I should be better at __________ .”

Come and nurture your sense of belonging, you are a vital cog in our piano teaching profession. We need you to connect. You are unique. And as you develop you will bring depth and richness to what the rest of us do. (And yes, it’s ok to doubt that right now. But trust me, you will enrich the profession when you come to it and allow yourself to be seen).

The secret is in getting started – in taking action steps – because as Henry Ford once said:

“You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.”

 

 This post was written by Sharon Mark-Teggart | Co-Founder & Director of The Curious Piano Teachers

6 thoughts on “DEALING WITH THE FEAR OF “I’M NOT GOOD ENOUGH”

  1. Katherine Baerentzen

    I am working towards grade 8 piano for personal gratification and to put right what feels like a gaping cavity of unfulfilled professionalism. Although I love my music -singing and piano, I have always felt like I don’t quite belong in the piano world or am not sufficiently worthy of being there. Since 1997 I have been teaching grades 1 to 8 in singing, and preparatory to grade 5 in piano, both disciplines to all ages and I love it. I don’t advertise piano teaching for the advanced, 6 – 8 grades; having done grade 7 ABRSM and analysed music at degree level with the OU, I’m sure I have many of the right insights, but it still feels it would be dishonest to claim to teach in general at this level until I have succeeded in that widely accepted milestone of practical achievement, grade 8.
    I am on the 2019 -2020 syllabus and know I am not ready to do this Spring’s session. In my defence, I have had a prolonged period of dealing with breast cancer and chemo; the bulk of my time and energy has been spent in retaining my student base online while having chemo, but practice has suffered. I understand that, due to the pandemic, the overlap period of this syllabus has been extended considerably. I finish chemo mid January, and surgery follows shortly afterwards; after this I hope to get back on track with grade 8 as a matter of honour, to myself and others. My perceptions of doing the exam are very scary, in spite of everything I tell my students when I encourage them about theirs. I am quietly confident about the aural tests through love of singing and harmonies, and learning to analyse music from various genres. The playing is a very different matter, technical isn’t too bad but tends to get forgotten if neglected. Sight reading is somewhat pot luck, chordal, modern textures are more comfortable than classical or contrapuntal, baroque ones, I’ll be in trouble if I get counterpoint.
    As for the pieces, the idea of trying to perform them convincingly is terrifying, I know them very well and like them very much, but still falter throughout them all, with over reaching what should be simple intervals and having silly, unexpected memory lapses, so – work still very much in progress. I know I’ve ‘gone on a bit, ‘ so apologies for that, but the comments from others, also about to do grade 8 piano resonated much with me. I know they were from a while back now so I hope those people have achieved what they wanted and/ or are happy with their continued musical journeys. I am pleased to have found this website and like minded people.
    Thanks for your time, I look forward to sharing further thoughts with you – not perhaps as lengthy as this! 🙂

    Reply
  2. Carol

    Thank you for the encouraging words! I constantly struggle with the thought of not being good enough.
    I know I worry too much about what others think. Always comparing myself to others. It’s good to know I’m not alone.

    Reply
  3. Karen Marshall

    I am very familiar with this sociologist’s work. I think it is also good to remember that self protection also needs to be exercised and she does advocate this if you read her books (Daring Greatly links the best with this TED talk). Be careful who you share your vulnerability with. I think that’s important. And also in what setting.

    I fully accept as a piano teacher there is always more to learn and embrace that, I still attend lessons with a mentor myself. However, I always feel my teaching is good enough. I don’t want to take money for something that is not good enough. I simply have never taught at a level I am not confident in. Working up to teaching Grade 8 over a few years of study. That’s the reason why I don’t teach performance diplomas only teaching ones. And have passed on exceptionally gifted students to teachers who have been concert pianists. I also echo Frances’s comment above about life long learning.

    Reply
  4. Cross-Eyed Pianist

    Interesting and helpful article – thank you.

    This “imposter syndrome” which you describe is something I feel, both as a piano teacher and a pianist. While I appreciated the usefulness and support that comes from connecting with other teachers and musicians via social networks, online forums and groups and at actual physical events, I sometimes find that the more I connect and hear about what others are doing, the more of an imposter I can feel.

    To remedy this, I believe it is important to build one’s self-confidence secure in the knowledge that one is good at what one does, and not to measure one’s success and achievements against other people’s. Comparing oneself to others is a recipe for disappointment and feelings of inadequacy. Confidently carving one’s own course leads to a greater sense of personal fulfilment

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. The Name, Email and Comment fields are required

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.