In my last newsletter, I wrote about rewiring negative voices thanks to my hilarious Duolingo widget. I journaled self-doubts and rewrote each to more accurately reflect my true confidence.

Since then, I’ve continued the self-compassion journey.

Last weekend, I gave a presentation on mindfulness to a group of music teachers. I shared my teacher Madeline Bruser’s transformative exercise, Performing Beyond Fear.

The second step of this three-part exercise is to reflect on your own basic goodness. I asked participants to think of at least one unique gift they offer their students when they teach or their audiences when they perform.

It was a big challenge.

They were intrigued by the possibility but struggled to view themselves this way. We talked about negativity bias, that in order to protect ourselves we focus on anything we perceive as a threat. This ancient impulse still haunts us, even though there are no more sabre-tooth tigers lurking around the corner.

I emphasized that in order to open our hearts and connect with our students and audiences, we must first appreciate ourselves. I suggested their “homework” was to come up with just one thing that is special that they can offer the world.

I had some homework too.

I had underestimated how difficult this level of self-kindness is, especially for folks just considering it for the first time.

We’re really hard on ourselves, aren’t we?

I went back to the trenches to think of some easier exercises I might share next time to help musicians develop more self-appreciation.

Here are a few I like:

1. Check-In
It’s simple. How am I doing? Mentallly, physically, emotionally? What do I need right now? It continues to astonish me how often I forget to do this.

2. What Would a Friend Say?
This one was popular among college students, and it works for my 7-year-old daughter too. If you catch yourself with a negative thought, turn it around: What would a friend say?

3. Kind Self-Talk
I’ve heard several meditation teachers suggest this, so I decided to give it a try. I admit, this one is tricky for me. Basically, you practice speaking kindly to yourself, as you might encourage a friend. I’ve been trying: “You’re doing great. You have so much to offer. You’re a great mom,” etc.

I’ll be honest: It felt ridiculous at first. In fact, most of the time I snap out of any thoughts because I start laughing. But I’m keeping at it. It feels nice, and I notice a big difference in my teaching when I’m doing it: It’s more energized and impactful.

A small piece of evidence that appreciating ourselves is a critical step to connecting with our students and audiences.

I hope you find many ways to appreciate yourself.