aT: I’ve always been driven: to succeed, to excel, to win approval. After 30-odd years of trying to please other people, and burning out my adrenals in the process, I’m finally saying no. My biggest fear used to be, “What if others don’t like me?” Now it is, “What if I am not myself?”
Playing piano was my childhood refuge, a way to cope with being different. Even though I swore I would NEVER become a musician, an inner compass pushed me towards becoming a professional pianist.
In college and grad school, a big part of me wanted to excel at the piano so that my teachers and peers would like me. Piano stopped being a safe place; I had stopped playing for myself. I was using the piano for approval. I was frustrated with my abilities because I felt I would never be worthy of acceptance.
I played a stressful game of constant mental roulette: trying to anticipate what someone wanted, silently freaking out when they wanted something different, trying to assess where I stood with this person, and being angry with myself when they still didn’t seem pleased.
My sound was tense, tight, and strung-out. There was absolutely no joy in what I did. I felt no connection, no passion. My life was about making money and in the quiet times, filled with fear of not making money. I brought and received stress from relationships. I took gigs that made me feel incredibly cheapened. Strangers would say, “You’re so lucky to be a pianist, you get to do what you love.” I would just stare at them blankly.
In the winter of 2015 I had something of a spiritual wake-up call. I had reached the point where my body didn’t want to keep going. I was beyond exhausted; emotionally, mentally, physically. I’ve always loved and prized my independence, but addiction to stress compounded by an impossible work schedule caused adrenal burnout.
I realized that if I wanted to keep my independence and success, a big change needed to happen. I began to receive multiple signs, strong signs, that something wanted me to leave my destructive, stress-addicted, people-pleasing circle and go to higher ground. My approval-centered life wasn’t working anymore and I started searching like hell to reverse this.
I began meditating regularly. I made a conscious choice to examine ALL my thought and belief patterns. The fundamental one for me was realizing that I am responsible for my well-being—emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually. My seeking approval was constantly asking everyone else to be responsible for me. I was trapped in co-dependence: I felt it was my job to figure out what made others happy, so that I could be accepted. I gave in order to get.
I realized that if I took responsibility for all aspects of myself, there was suddenly no dependence on others. There was only the possibility of reclaimed strength, of trusting others, of reconnecting with my true uniqueness
Although I had begun my musical path from love, my attention to codependence became stronger than my desire to stay connected to my passion. I had settled for circumstances that prevented my musical gifts from developing to their highest level. Every relationship, every gig, every thought required scrutiny and reflection.
Now every day is filled with a heightened awareness of my feelings, how every choice feels: does it feel good, or does it feel like habit? Now giving and receiving value is more important than making money. I walk away from situations that hold me in smaller, diminutive, “less-than-who-I-am” positions. This includes gigs that don’t value what I offer and relationships that are unbalanced.
I have started caring more about fulfilling my soul’s purpose, and of striving to bring my highest self to all situations. And this has allowed me to completely change my relationship with the piano.
Now piano is my way of giving back to the world, of living a far more fulfilling life on my own terms. The growth of my inner self, the self that wants to invigorate and uplift others, has become far more important than anything else.
And now I can’t imagine being any other way…
dC: What is your greatest fear? Reply in the comments and let us know. We love you!