Stop Bullying & Start Enjoying Yourself
If you’ve been to therapy, you know about self talk. How is your self-talk supporting your learning process and how is it getting in the way?
One of the most heart-wrenching things for me to hear is the way my students talk to themselves in our lessons. Sometimes their interior language seeps out into their process of learning new songs, piano pieces or music theory concepts.
“I’m not good at that.”
“I’m bad at that.”
“I can’t do that.”
“It’s too much for me.”
These thoughts come easily in an achievement-oriented world. “Hard, difficult, challenge, conquer, win” all over the classroom, the media and our friendships and contain within them the possibility of failure. Such terms plagued me throughout college, grad school and my early career as I struggled to match up to punishing expectations I set for myself.
In 2011 I began training in movement-based learning and through this work, I changed my inner self-talk to become a better friend and coach to myself.
On a day when I’m generally well rested, fed and watered and don’t have too much going on, a piece of music or a homework problem could feel like a cinch. But the same task on another day might feel like a hill to climb. This just means that to my mind-body system has not learned it yet to a point of expertise.
A student, for example, may play a piece with ease as long as things are quiet and there are no distractions. But when asked to play on an unfamiliar piano or with ambient noise that feels new, the same piece feels less familiar. [This is why I play a game with all students preparing to perform: they play or sing their piece while I do random loud or visually distracting things including but. not limited to barnyard-animal sounds 🐔 .]
When I say something is difficult, hard or impossible, I feel overwhelmed. I don’t want to do it. But if I say instead that a task is “new,” I feel curious. I look forward to doing it again.
The mind-body system learns things by repetition over time. This means that if something is a challenge it’s simply because it is somehow new. I have not done it enough times and under enough of a variation of conditions for it to feel easy.
When learning and teaching I now do my best not to use the words hard and difficult. Instead, I present things on a spectrum from easy to new.
NEW — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —— — EASY
When I encourage myself with the energizing words easy and new, I access energy and awareness to reach my goals. Living life on a spectrum of learning gives me a playful curiosity about my mistakes and anything that I find challenging in my personal and work life.
It’s easy to slip back into older habits of self-punishment when I’m under a lot of stress or there are many large-scale changes going on in my life. At times like this, I do my best to remember what I ask students when I hear them say they are “not good at” something:
“Why are you talking to my friend like that?”