Self-Critique and Success
By Jeannie Deva
At least a part of your growth as a singer can and should be done alone, free from the opinions of others. Self-critiquing is a valid tool of development, but your success with it depends upon how you do it.
Perhaps you already employ a number of the following activities to improve your singing: taking voice lessons, rehearsing with a band, recording, performing and getting audience feedback, listening to other singers and singing with recordings. All of these activities can advance your skills depending upon how any critique by you or others is done. Let's take a closer look at this to ensure your success.
Looking over your own behavior with regards to singing, you might notice that you are most creative and sound your best when your actions are not being challenged by others and you are free from self-doubt. This "safe environment" must start from within you. I'm talking about being your own best friend. This does not mean you present yourself in a conceded, arrogant manner or brag about how great you are. You don't have to give yourself false accolades and chant every morning, "I'm good, I love myself."
It does mean that if you are not yet as good a singer as you would like to be, you don't ridicule or disparage yourself when you make a mistake. It also means that you need to ensure you have a program of achievable steps which will guide you to your goal. Then, as long as you maintain your practice discipline, you can appreciate yourself for making progress and for the accomplishment of each step as you draw closer to your goals. Recognizing and acknowledging any improvement, no matter how small, is important and paves the way to success.
Constructive vs. Destructive Criticism
Perhaps not so obvious to some is the big difference in effect between constructive and destructive criticism. I'm bringing this up now, because how you critique yourself will either advance or thwart your progress as a singer and performer. Let's start with a working understanding of Destructive Criticism as fault finding that does not at the same time provide a means by which to correct or enhance your actions.
The result can often be that you feel less sure of yourself. You may feel hesitant about continuing to sing or perform. It reduces your self-esteem. Examples of destructive criticism could be: "I sounded horrible on that song" or "You call that singing?" or more subtly, "What's wrong with me? I never open up to an audience."
Now let's define Constructive Criticism as acknowledgment of the positive aspects and pointing out errors in a way that indicates how to remedy them. This does not imply that you say something was good when it was not. That's actually covertly destructive because the deception infers that you can't deal with the truth; which is a lie and a criticism of your capabilities.
Constructive criticism directs you to a way of changing your approach so that you can become more expert, stronger and more certain. An example of this would be: "Overall that performance was good, but that high note in the chorus went off pitch. The reason it did was because I held my stomach in causing air over-blow and tension in my throat muscles. I'll sing it again and this time try letting my stomach relax." Or even simpler, "That wasn't bad, but I can put more feeling into that song. Let's do it again from the beginning."
Helping Yourself Grow
Using constructive criticism can take some practice. Some people, through habit, have become so used to giving destructive criticism that they don't know how to make their critique positive. Hopefully, now that we've begun to examine this, you will notice any time you critique yourself and will be able to keep it constructive. Or at least you'll be able to change it to constructive if it started out negative.
It’s easy fall into a negative attitude if you grow frustrated and impatient when you aren't making fast enough progress or you don't know what to do next to advance. It is better to ask a knowledgeable, competent professional to help you figure out the best program for you rather than resort to demeaning yourself out of frustration.
After all, we are unique individuals and enhancement actions that are good for another person may not work well for you. Even if the steps you take are similar to another's, the sequence in which you take them can make the difference between slow and arduous or rapid and smooth progress. Most importantly, be a friend to yourself by not allowing destructive criticism to defeat you.
Oh, one more thing, if you use a self-abasement approach: "That was horrible"; "Oh I did it wrong again"; "Why can't I ever..." you have mistakenly internalized past destructive criticisms from others and have become your own enemy. You may find it beneficial to inspect your life for negative people who have criticized you "even as a friend" or "for your own good" and then distance yourself from them.
If they really were your friends, they wouldn't continually provide reasons why you can't succeed by pointing out faults with no remedy. Along with learning to change your approach to self-critiquing, it is important to be alert to the type of criticism others may give you. If you know when you are being given destructive criticism and what the effect of it can be, perhaps you will be less likely to let it thwart you.
When you use constructive self-direction and associate with positive people who are supportive, you grow stronger, more confident and advance your career. The reverse is also true. The choice is yours.