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Manage Self-Doubt to Write Better Songs

Actions steps to manage your songwriting self-doubt and prevent you from sabotaging yourself and your songwriting!
Manage Self-Doubt to Write Better Songs, Solving Your Self-Doubts as a Songwriter

Table of Contents

Focus and control your self-doubt instead of sabotaging your songwriting…

Ever catch yourself saying any of these? (Yes, I’ve said them all!)

  • My song isn’t good enough
  • My song doesn’t sound as good as I imagined it would sound
  • The demo mix of your latest song isn’t very good
  • My singing isn’t good enough
  • My playing isn’t good enough

I know how you feel, I’ve had to work through all of them!

It’s worse when you take it personally and direct it at yourself instead of your music:

  • I’m not as good as _____
  • I’m don’t ____ because I’m not good at it
  • I don’t have the confidence to _____
  • I’m not good enough to _____

These are all forms of self doubt… not believing in yourself or in your abilities. It’s time to explore self-doubt and work through it!

Healthy Self Doubt

Everyone has self doubts… a little self-doubt is healthy, it can keep you from getting hurt or embarrassing yourself. You avoid physically or socially unsafe situations… and stay out of trouble. 

Without self doubt, you think you do everything perfectly and already know everything. Regardless of your results, you don’t need to learn anything or do anything differently.

Destructive Self Doubt

If you only hear your self doubts, you start to avoid risks… and taking risks is the only way to get yourself to the next level. Too much self doubt will paralyze you and you won’t try anything new.

Self-Doubt affects your songwriting by:

  • Slowing you down
  • Procrastinating – avoiding songs that aren’t coming easily
  • Avoiding making decisions
  • Not finishing your songs
  • Not releasing your songs 

It’s subtle, you don’t consciously realize you’re doing it… maybe if I:

  • Work on this song a little longer
  • Spend more time mixing this track
  • Practice my vocals or instruments more…

You end up hiding out instead of putting yourself and your songs out there!

Let me know when Ed Sheeran calls about that co-write, cat hiding in a couch

Self Doubt is About Your Expectations

The problem isn’t your skills or level of ability… 

The problem is that your expectations are higher than your skills or ability right now!

High expectations are important… you can imagine being better than you are right now… which means you can work to get yourself there! The trick is avoiding paralysis and continuing to improve your songwriting and performance skills!

Self-Doubts are Often Hiding a Fear

It might be a fear of:

  • Embarrassment
  • Looking foolish
  • Looking like an amateur
  • Wasting your time
  • Not meeting your expectations
  • Not meeting the expectations of others

The Solution is Managing Your Self-Doubts is…

To channel them in a positive direction. Don’t ignore them… a little doubt means you need to improve that song before calling it finished. Use the self-doubt / fear to make improvements in your song, your singing, and in yourself!

Quit Stopping Your Songwriting, 3 stop signs at different angles

Managing Your Self-Doubts – Actions Steps

1, Notice Your Doubts

  • Be aware when you are doing it
  • Figure out exactly what you are afraid of (often it’s more than one thing!), and
  • Verbalize it or write it down

2. Check Your Expectations

Are your expectations realistic and fair to your song or fair to you? Are you:

  • Trying to compare your singing to an “A list” artist?
  • Comparing your home studio demo to a professionally recorded, mixed and mastered song you bought?
  • Measuring yourself against someone who has been in the music industry longer than you have?
  • Worried about your social media presence that’s weaker than a singer / songwriter / musician that you saw on YouTube?

3. Test Your Doubts

Is your doubt real or based in fear? Figure out if your self doubt is actually true or if you’re avoiding something. Examine your excuses and decide what’s at the root of them…

You might need another opinion from someone you trust to help you solve this step….

4. Choose Steps to Correct Your Self-Doubt

  • Can you put yourself in situations that help you build your confidence?
  • Do you rewrite your personal stories that hold you back?
  • Can you prove the doubt is wrong?

5. Choose Steps to Correct Your Weaknesses

If your doubt has some truth to it… what are you going to do to change it?

You need to figure out:

  • What do you need to work on?
  • What songwriting skills and experience do you need to improve?
  • How hard are you willing to work at it? 
  • Are you ready to make it a high priority?
  • What help do you need? 
  • Who could help you?

6. Use Your Songwriting Strengths

Remember to use your strengths to balance your weaknesses. Everyone has strengths – you do too! 

  • What songwriting strengths can you leverage to support your growth?
  • Who could help you?
  • Put an action plan together!

7. Act anyway!

Do something about it – don’t get stuck examining the problem or avoiding your songs because you have doubts or songwriting fears.

“The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” 

“Courage (is) not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.”

From The Long Walk to Freedom the autobiography of Nelson Mandela

Tinfoil helmets save lives

Action Steps: Example

I started writing this article because I have self doubts about my singing… I never really liked to sing, even as a kid. The fact that I have a good singing voice isn’t important because my stories and self talk about my singing is stronger. It showed up recently while I was recording one of my songs in my home studio. I was frustrated because the results weren’t as good was what I heard in my head… I started to avoid working on the recording:

Noticed

Yeah… after I started to avoid the work!

Check Expectations

Doesn’t sound as good as I imagined… understandable but not good enough reason to quit!

Test Doubts

I checked the mix the next day, and except for a few phrases that needed another take… it was much better than I had thought the day before. Then a happy accident, I was in a store and heard a song on the radio… don’t know who was singing or the name of the song, but the guitar playing was weak, the singing was worse than mine, and the song didn’t have a decent hook. It made it easier to get back to my half done demo when it already sounded better to me than a published song.

Choose to Correct Doubt

So stop being so hard on myself, continue working on rewriting the “I don’t sing well” story that I have been repeating for years… it’s actually a “I need to build my singing confidence” story!

Choose to Correct Weakness

I have taken singing lessons and I asked several musicians and vocalists for referrals then found a vocal coach and started back at lessons. 

While I was looking for a teacher, I remembered that I know several vocal warmups, but don’t do them consistently. So I chose two vocal strengthening warm-ups and practiced them every morning for a month….

Use Your Strengths

I have a good ear, good tuning and a good sense of time… my issue is more about getting my voice to sing the melody in my head and better control of my vowels… and sounding like I am having fun (instead of listening to the distracting chatter in my head) while I sing!

Act Anyway

The vocals are finished on the song, and I’m adding other instrumental parts before a final mix and mastering it.

I wrote this article to help you and to be sure that I catch myself earlier in the avoidance phase next time the doubts start up again.

Self-Doubts: Summary

Manage Self-Doubt By:

  1. Notice doubts
  2. Check Expectations
  3. Test doubts
  4. Choose steps to correct doubt
  5. Choose steps to correct weakness
  6. Use your strengths
  7. Act Anyway

What self doubts have held you back? How have you managed them so far?

More Articles to Help You Manage Yourself and Write Your Songs

Trevor Dimoff

Trevor Dimoff

Trevor Dimoff has taught, played and written music professionally for the last 25+ years.
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