Music Shop Talk: Exposing 3 Musician Shadow Sides, and How to Stop Self Sabotage



By Cari Cole




Just to be a musician is to fight the shadow. It’s a battle, first with yourself, and then to keep your artistry intact as you plunge into the music business, alongside the many odds stacked up against you. From your own roller coaster confidence, to standing up to those who don’t believe in you or think you’re indulging a losing battle, to the music business that doesn’t pay until you hit the big digits – there’s a lot to overcome.

You don’t choose to be a musician, it chooses you. It’s who you are, it’s what you do, it’s the nature of your whole life. And you can’t live or breathe without it. Not really. If you’ve been in music for a while, and my guess if you’re reading this is that you have… then you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Today I wanted to expose the shadow sides of being an artist, and bring to light the things that perhaps unknowingly sabotage your music — hence the term “shadow”.

Debbie Ford, Deepak Chopra and Marianne Williamson wrote about it in “The Shadow Effect” a book that talks about the hidden potential in illuminating our shadow selves.

The shadow exists within all of us. It is a part of us and yet we spend most of our life running from it. But far from being scary, our dark side holds the promise of a better, more fulfilling life. Our shadow makes itself known every day. It is the reason we get furious over a friend showing up ten minutes late, yell at our parents or kids when they have done nothing wrong, and sabotage our own success at the worst possible time. Until we are able to embrace our dualistic nature, we will continue to hurt ourselves and those closest to us and fall short of our potential.”

I believe every artist, musician, songwriter and music creator has a mission. A message that is trying to be born through them. Call it a spiritual thing or call it fate, it’s something every musician feels in their bones. So many artists hear the call, and answer it, but it’s easy to lose hope. Especially when things aren’t working out.

I had a friend who wanted to be a musician all of her life. She was deeply artistically talented but she suffered from insecurity. She always second guessed herself, though she wasn’t enough and it held her back big time. So much so that it cost her her career. Every time there was an opportunity she would accidentally write down the wrong address or she’d forget to follow up. One time she even fell apart during an audition. None of it was planned, but really what it was, was her fear. She had low self worth and was afraid to progress, because she was afraid to fail. But because she was always at the effect of her behavior, it seemed that bad things happened to her, when really she was protecting herself from imagined failure.

See we do things to get more joy or avoid more pain, only, when we come to realize that the things we so desperately want, might be seen by our unconscious mind as pain or failure, we can start to free ourselves from the shackles weighing us down and preventing success.

So in sneaky, slippery ways, you hold yourself back, stunt your growth, and sabotage your efforts and desires It’s not hard to do, it’s pretty inevitable until you become more aware of your real fears and insecurities.

So where are YOU sabotaging yourself? What are your shadow sides? Knowing them is the first step to recovering yourself and shifting the tides in a favorable direction.

Here are 3 Musician Shadow Sides, and How to Stop the Self Sabotage:  


1.  The Insecurity Shadow

Most artists have this shadow, so I’ll put it first. Usually born with unusual sensitivities, artist’s live in their rich world of heightened extrasensory perception and emotions. This is part of the artist’s natural nature. It’s what allows them to feel deeply, and to make great music and art. Because artists tend to feel more deeply than most people, it’s is how you can write and perform with such depth and impact. Sensing how people feel helps them understand what it feels like when the shoe is on another foot. These are the qualities, my darling, that are an asset to your artistry. Artists also often find themselves as outsiders, even black sheeps of their family or circles of friends. Not surprising when you don’t really fit in. Not fitting in can lead to insecurity or a lack of self worth. On top of it, most artists struggle with challenges in their lives that make them dig deep within themselves to find meaning or healing. Especially paired with a difficult childhood, the outcome of an insecure nature is inevitable.

This shadow is not so obvious on the surface. It likes to hide away and not reveal itself. No one likes to admit they feel insecure, even to themselves. But, when you understand that insecurity is really a part of being a sensitive person, and that “not fitting in” makes you search harder than others to discover who you are — you can come to appreciate and even embrace your artist nature ;).   

Tip: The first step is to acknowledge that this shadow exists. Don’t hide it away, feel shame or make it wrong, because it’s there as a protective device ;). Most of the top singers and performers in the world have this shadow (goes with the territory.) The goal is not to be “secure” because you may always have that little crack in you – that’s how the light gets in ;). But the goal is to not let it stop you or over power your ability to push through your fear. Do not mistake your insecurity for weakness, rather it is your ability to feel and be self aware. The best way to deal with insecurity is to know it is your tendency and to protect yourself against it. How? Argue in favor of yourself and learn to trust your spooky sensitivities. If you can trust your intuition, and yourself, you’ll be able to navigate things way better than most. What do you need to nurture in yourself to stand more firmly in your artist shoes? Insecurity and all?




2.  The Isolation Shadow

Some artists prefer to write alone, work alone and put out their music alone. I get it. I’ve had periods of that in my life – lots of them. However, it can keep you from getting out there and getting the feedback you need to grow.

If you struggle with this, you might dislike being exposed for fear of being criticized. As if that criticism is deeply personal, central to your opinion of yourself.

This shadow is not so obvious on the surface (as most shadows are.) It seems to you, that you just prefer being alone. But at it’s core this shadow can arise from a deep seated feeling of not being “good enough” and a fear of being criticized that is too central to your self worth.

Left unobserved, this shadow could keep you holed up in your artist cave for years or even decades, and make your music suffer from a lack of relevance.

Tip: You want to learn not to take criticism to heart. Use is as a tool, not as a slam to yourself. And try to stop working in isolation so much. Come out into the light every now and then. Show your music to people whose opinion you respect. Tell them you want the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And then listen – don’t take it personally. Use it as a tool to grow!  




3.  The Victim Shadow

Artists need people to believe in them, to help them. Central to growing as an artist is the need for feedback, guidance, and help pushing the boundaries of their art. This is true.

But here’s where the music industry has created a false sense of things and a dangerous pitfall for artists to be the “victim.”

Artists have either had patrons of the arts or record labels supporting them for the past many hundreds of years and I’m sure more. But here’s the lie. It’s not so much that you need others to help you be successful because you do – but the lie is – that you can’t make great art without that help. That you need a label or a manager or an investor in order to make great music. So you should try everything under the sun to get it – even sell your soul.

Waiting for rescue is victimhood. And victimhood keeps you down. Keeps you powerless.  Keeps you waiting.

And the deeper layer underneath that is that you are worthless. Think about it. Don’t fight it — realize the inner workings of this kind of thinking and it will lose it’s hold on you. Little by little, day by day, keep addressing it until you gain clarity and free yourself from it’s hold.

Tip: You are the source of your career. You alone are the power behind your music. Even when you have a manager and a label, you are the person that makes decisions for your career.  Until you get that on a very deep level, you’ll hold yourself back bigtime. Every day for 5 minutes trust yourself. Trust your instincts, trust your intuitions and your thought process. Every day you grow stronger.

The goal of working with your shadow sides is to gently, patiently and compassionately expose them to the light so you can stop operating in the dark or at the effect of them. To get where you long to go, work on embracing your shadows, and taking ownership for the self imposed limitations they create — which will in turn help loosen their hold.. Be brave my darlings. You can do this. Stop at nothing. Besides, you’ve got lives to touch.



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