Believe in Yourself : (Easier Said than Done)

The other day I was talking on the phone to my makeup sales gal who also happens to be an excellent and accomplished opera singer. After I made my purchase, I asked her how her singing was going. She had just finished a few-month run at an opera house in Florida and had moved back to New York to live with her sister. “I’ve been back for months and have taken so many auditions,” she sighed. “I just can’t believe I haven’t gotten any big gigs yet!

“When I was in school I won every audition and I got positive feedback all the time,” she continued. “It’s hard to keep believing in myself and in my talent when I’m not winning auditions all the time.”

I could hear the frustration in her voice. This energetic, intelligent, beautiful, talented, and organized soprano was on the verge of depression. I almost couldn’t believe my ears because she is a very successful singer and an even more successful businessperson. But everyone is vulnerable to this worn-out-by-too-many-auditions syndrome. We talked for a bit and soon she was starting to remember why she lives this life of a classical singer and how she might use her business skills and naturally bright personality to create opportunities to serve people with her singing between auditions. I was relieved to hear a hint of joy come back into her voice.

After our call I happened to look at Facebook and she had posted something positive about being inspired by our conversation. I was inspired too! In a mere 15–20 minutes, she was able to turn her frustration into joyful possibilities for her immediate future. That was pure strength in action!

Everyone tells you to “believe in yourself,” but no one seems to tell you how! Having spent a lifetime as a classical singer, I can tell you this: it’s easier said than done . . . but it can be done. Believing in yourself over the long haul no matter what is a fundamental requirement for every step you make, every scale you practice, every audition you take, and every performance you give.

So, how do you do it? Just like becoming a great singer, “believing in yourself” takes practice. Here are three daily practices that are sure to start you on the path toward believing in yourself and will keep that belief strong when things get hard.

Generate Your Career
No singer simply has a successful career, she generates it. Just as the power plant doesn’t have power, it generates power. You already know that you don’t simply have a great voice but that you cultivate it by practicing for hours and hours. If you practice generating your contacts, opportunities, fan base, collaborations, and products the same way you cultivate your tone, technique, and repertoire, you will start to identify and open doors to the life you really want.

After you practice singing, make time every day to generate your next singing project or fan. For example: you could make it your goal to sing for three new people each week, to live stream a birthday song on Facebook, or to meet with a consultant. In this process, work just as much outside the music world as inside it.

Audition fatigue comes from too many auditions inside the field and too few performances outside. On the outside, you are an expert in singing with lots of repertoire and abilities to offer to regular people in the world and you are probably the only singer they know—while on the inside, you may feel a bit like you are a dime a dozen. Value both equally and divide your efforts half in and half out of the music field. The gigs you generate outside the field give you great experience, some pocket money, and that much needed fan base. Little by little you will see the value you bring to others and begin to believe in it.

Employ All Your Superpowers, Even the Easy Ones
I’m going to tell you a secret: whatever is easy and/or fun for you is your very own superpower! It is human nature to devalue what comes easily to a person, but it is exactly that fun and easy ability that makes you valuable and marketable while at the same time making your journey fun.

Here are a few examples of how it works. It may be easy for you to harmonize with songs on the radio while others may be excellent at sight-reading. The singer who can harmonize may want to try performing other types of music alongside their classical repertoire, thus expanding her fan base. The singer who can sight-sing easily may want to try getting into the recording industry for film and TV scores, thus widening his field of expertise. My friend who sells makeup is great at creating a customer base and maintaining it by offering new products regularly. She can use those same skills to create a musical customer base and offer new recordings or concerts regularly to keep them interested. As a voice teacher and professional soprano, I didn’t know if my ukulele could fit into my concerts, but it does! People love it and, more importantly, I love it.

Take a moment to identify your own superpower now. Obviously one of your superpowers is singing. Here’s a hint on how to find others: it is something that comes easily to you and that you already spend a good amount of time doing. It may be something you care about, that you are proud of, or that you do just for fun. Your powers may be many or few. They may be musical or nonmusical.

Once you’ve identified your superpowers, then ask yourself: “How can I combine this ability with my classical singing to generate my next performance, musical product, or new fan?” This may take practice and a bit of trial and error, so get started now. It is said that it only takes 1,000 fans to make a career. Whether it is baking or accounting, social activism or religion, fitness or Pokémon, combine your interests creatively with your singing and see what happens! Pretty soon you’ll be having so much fun and generating such good buzz around your singing, you’ll certainly believe in yourself.

Turn It Around
Turning your negatives into positives is a great practice. You can do it along with your daily physical exercise and practice. Take a moment to identify any negative thoughts or fears that might be bugging you on any given day and simply turn them into positives. Here’s an example: Instead of repeating, “I am broke and have no prospects for gainful employment with my singing. I might as well quit!” Turn it around and try, “I have enough food, clothing, and resources to sing today and I certainly can sing to make someone happy pretty easily. I might as well sing!”

Visualize a good, positive outcome for any worrisome or fearful task. Make sure your turnaround is true and that you believe it. You will attract what you talk about, think about, and do most—and that is up to you. It follows that singing anywhere (even the national anthem at a sporting event) leads to singing everywhere. The more you sing, the more you will believe you can sing because you are singing.

Singing is a service for the world. If you are not able to serve a specific orchestra or opera company right at the moment, serve someone or something else until you can. Singers provide many valuable services to congregations, sports events, birthday parties, celebrations of all kinds, and community events. You can sing for your family, your friends, your colleagues, your church community, your Instagram followers, or your Facebook friends.

Whether you are singing for money or to just make your world a little bit brighter, you are a singer. So sing. It is in the not singing that you lose hope and belief in your abilities. Generate your career bit by bit employing all of your superpower gifts—and when the going gets rough, turn it around by singing anyway. If you practice these three self-belief exercises every day, you will certainly begin to believe in your own capacity to give of yourself for the benefit of others. Others will then have no choice but to value your gifts and be grateful in whatever way they can—whether it’s applause, a kind word, or a paycheck. For it is in the singing that you find your value.

May you practice valuing and sharing your gifts every day, and with each day may your belief in yourself grow!

Susan Mohini Kane

Susan Mohini Kane has enjoyed a versatile career performing professionally for over two decades with regional symphonies and opera companies in the Midwest and California. She specializes in premiering new music and in performing a new genre that includes fusions of opera, art song, musical theatre, and American/European songbooks that she has coined “Classical Cabaret.” Kane is a tenured music faculty member at Cal State LA, a member of the faculty at Angels Vocal Art Summer Opera Intensive, and a frequently invited guest artist and master teacher at universities nationwide. She was also a guest faculty member at the Vancouver International Song Institute for 2016. Kane holds MM and DMA degrees from the University of Cincinnati College–Conservatory of Music.