I suffer from insecurity, amongst a litany of other psychological shortcomings. I think most musicians get into this business as a result of their insecurity. I mean when you boil it down, you are singing for the approval of strangers in exchange for money. Yikes.
Insecurity can be a good thing or a bad thing. The feeling you aren’t good enough can motivate you to prove others wrong and propel you forward. I have auditioned for gigs that intimidated me musically, and my insecurity motivated me to over prepare and perform well in high-pressure moments. Drive can give you the competitive edge over people more talented than you. It’s just a matter of harnessing that self-doubt and pushing through it.
On the other hand, there are other musicians who let that insecurity rule them. I have worked with incredibly talented players who can’t make a decision without seeking approval for it. It makes things like song selection, part splitting, and hanging out excruciating.
That insecurity can also manifest itself on stage. This usually comes out in over playing and over performing. It’s one thing to show off your technical skills in a way that benefits the band, it’s a completely different thing to upstage other members at inappropriate moments.
In other situations that insecurity shows up in social one-upmanship. My buddies call it “boat racing.” Have you ever played a gig with a guy who always has to put others down and talk about what he’s done? The guy who name-drops without remorse and basically sucks the air out of the greenroom?
In it’s worst form that insecurity can cause people to over indulge in things like drugs & alcohol and make playing almost impossible. I’ve dealt with guys who’d show up to gigs late & loaded, play horribly and be openly hostile to the rest of the guys. Those situations usually end with their relationship to the band ending.
So what do you do? If this sounds like someone in your band, you may need to decide if their issues are worth discussing with them or if it’s time to cut them loose. These kinds of personal issues can reflect poorly on your group if they spill onto the stage or interactions with your clients. On a few occasions I have had tough conversations with guys who had too much to drink or stepped over the line of conduct on stage or with the audience. It can be messy but if it comes from a place of trust and friendship it can be beneficial to everyone involved.
If this sounds like you, you may want to do some soul searching. You may need to talk to someone about why you feel the way you do. If you don’t feel ok, you need to talk to someone. It’s ok to be not ok, but don’t suffer in silence. We have seen what mental illness can do in the music world and if this is something you suffer from you should try and resolve it. It won’t kill your edge, it may be the thing that makes playing music fun again.