• Ingela Onstad

On Being Supportive to Ourselves

If you ask most people what qualities a good friend has, you’ll likely hear them list things such as:



Some of my best female friends from childhood

Kind

Empathetic

Loving

Supportive

Trustworthy

Honest

Loyal

Fun


Good qualities, right?


For those of us lucky enough to have strong friendships, we realize how valuable all of these attributes are and we not only look for friends who possess these attributes, we also hopefully strive to embody these attributes as well.


I’m very blessed in the friendship department, I have lots of amazing men and women in my life whom I love and feel loved by in return. I love spending time with friends and I love being able to be there for people in my life.


So why is it so difficult for us to take those same attributes we value so much and use them on ourselves? Why are we so great as friends to others but not ourselves?


I believe that most of us are people with good and loving intentions. We value being there for others, being kind, caring, generous, etc. We act in supportive ways and build others up.

But then we turn around and treat ourselves in ways we would NEVER treat a friend. We demean, bully, and criticize ourselves in ways that we would be ashamed to say out loud.


Just the other day in the practice room, I was working on a piece for an upcoming concert. I’ve sung this piece before and it gave me problems in the past. I have some “baggage” around it, you could say. I felt positive going into my practice session because I thought up some new strategies for dealing with technical difficulties and tricky passages and I was determined to take my time and be gentle with myself.


I thought I was emotionally well-prepared. Ha!


I eventually ran (sang?) into some old, bad singing habits and immediately started the bullying game. Fear took the wheel. Thoughts like “I’m so bad at this piece” or “why haven’t I figured this out yet?” or “this shouldn’t be so hard for me” started filling my brain. And before you know it, there I was in the familiar bully territory.


Needless to say, the singing I did after the bully stepped in wasn’t fun or satisfying and I ended my practice session frustrated.


But as I’m working to strengthen my mindset and be more supportive to myself, I really want to challenge myself to do better. So today I went back into the studio in between writing breaks, and I challenged myself to be kinder, more supportive, and more empathetic. I took the phrases I said to myself last week and worked on re-phrasing them in the way I might say them to a friend.


So, instead, I tried:

“You’re singing a lot of this piece well, but there are still a few areas for growth.”

“If you keep working on the hard parts, you'll improve with time."

“You have the necessary tools at your disposal to figure this out.”


Notice - I was still trying to be honest with myself about my need for growth in certain areas. At this point in my career, I know that certain areas will always need a little extra attention. I was trying to be an honest, yet supportive friend to myself. I do believe in the power of positive affirmations, but sometimes they can feel fake or inauthentic.


In what ways are you being a friend to yourself?

In what ways are you being your own worst enemy?

How has your "bully voice" hindered your progress as an artist?


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