So you have been playing your oboe for either a short while or a long while now. You practice with some sort of regularity and do OK with your lessons. You may or may not have developed some healthy habits when playing your oboe. You have friends that play as well, or you have someone that you are in competition with for that “first chair” position, or someone that you compete with to gain a position in that special ensemble. You feel upset when your oboe buddies do better than you do at an audition or playing exam. You ask yourself: “Why didn’t I get to play that solo instead of them?” Such is the life of a young musician, always comparing yourself to others and coming up with the short end of the stick: you see them as better or worse than you and you dislike how the situation has turned out! Does any of this sound familiar?
First of all, comparisons are only valuable if you are measuring two nearly identical things: like apples to apples and oranges to oranges, where there are many similarities but only slight differences. This way, the information that you obtain is more realistic and a wise decision can be made about which is better suited to your needs. One would never compare oranges with, say, razor blades. It just doesn’t make for a sensible comparison, as they are two unrelated objects.
Secondly, existing in this world would not be possible without recognizing reflections and understanding how they work. Certainly, you know what a reflection is when you look at yourself in the mirror: you see yourself. But how about when you look out into the world? It is your world, your universe, that reflects back to you exactly as to who you are at any given moment. Your world is engaged with you at all times to provide you with information as to what you need to do at any time. This is a beautiful and wonderful thing to have such a vast resource of information, all designed to helping your grow and evolve! We just need to understand how this works.
We all need a little help from time to time to decipher what everything means as the world provides us with constant information. As we develop we often examine how we appear against other people: we compare ourselves to others! Initially, this is done as a measure of growth, often looking at others to see how they relate to one self. Frequently, especially early in life, we simply do not understand that people around us are our reflections of who we are and who we are becoming. By understanding this nature we can best judge our personal needs and choose a healthy direction to move in. Everyone is a reflection of ourselves: a current self, a past self, a future self, or a wayward self. People are put on our path to show us exactly this!
Let’s look at all of these types of reflections to help understand exactly what they are representing to us. A reflection of a current self would be someone who has the same interest, is on the same level as we are within our growth, someone whom we really connect with, most likely a good friend. A “past self” reflection is someone who shows us who we once were, at an early stage of our growth. A younger sibling may be a past self, or perhaps someone that is just staring out playing the oboe. They represent a stage in our development that we have grown out of. A future self is someone that represents the direction that we desire to grow into, a more developed and evolved person then ourselves. This could be your oboe teacher, or someone that is at the next level of development than you, or someone who represents the thought, “if I really applied myself then I will become just like them!” A wayward self is someone that shows us the direction that we will go in if we make the wrong choices, the choices that go against the direction of growth and development. Just look around and see who resists their own development; they are more often unmotivated and run away from a healthy approach to life.
All of these types of reflections are easy to identify once you look at people with this perspective in mind. As you go through your day ask yourself what everyone around you is reflecting within you. This action may help you to make better choices of who you hang around as well as accept what people are showing you about yourself. Learn to enjoy this process, without criticizing what you come up with. Understand that everyone has reflections that they are working with, not just you. Furthermore, ask yourself if you would rather be someone’s “wayward self”, “current self” or their “future self” reflection? You may end up changing your approach to this person as a result of your answer!
Now, let’s begin to look at your fellow oboists around you, the ones that you hear at your teachers’ studio, the ones that you play in ensembles with, or the ones that you hear at auditions and concerts. They are all a reflection of you, of some point of your development as a young musician. Sometimes, instead of seeing that fellow oboist as a reflection of your growth you see them as an inconvenience or someone who gets in your way of achieving your goals. You get distracted that someone does something “better” or “worse” than you do. Your thinking may be turned upside-down, trying to rationalize why that someone is more “successful” than you. In some cases, things can turn into a competition, which, at a very basic level, is a source of growth, but also creates some angst within you, which leads to unhappiness.
Typically, our tendency is to compare ourselves to others that we believe are in a more advanced stage of their development instead of seeing them as a reflection of a future self. When we do this we always fall short on the comparison, therefore giving ourselves reasons to feel inadequate or unworthy of success. Instead, get out of the habit of comparing yourself externally with others and more into the habit of seeing them as a reflection of who you would become if you applied yourself in a similar manner. Neutralize the energy of your angst by taking a closer look at what they represent to you and/or their personal process. Then take that information to help you with your own personal process of development. If you need further clarity then ask your teacher about how to achieve what your reflection is showing you. Then apply that liberally to your practicing and see what results you get. While you may need to adjust the process a little you will find that you will start getting the results that you need. This will lead to increased happiness…and who doesn’t want to be a happy oboist!
You are now becoming more growth-oriented by using what the universe is showing you and applying it to yourself! This can be quite magical! Image the type of person whom you would become if you applied everything that you saw in your “future self” reflections all of the time! Imagine the auditions and competitions that you could win! Imagine how you would feel as a reward for applying yourself in such a manner! Sense what your level of self-evaluation would be like. Life would be great! So what are you waiting for?
Once you gain this perspective you can you use it for your own internal comparison! This type of comparison is much better for your growth and development then external comparisons, which lead to competitive behaviors. On one hand, external comparisons can be healthy but only if it leads to growth, minus the negative attitude towards yourself and others. If there is any hint of this attitude then you need to adjust your thinking away from others and more on yourself. Competition is often a way to become growth-oriented in younger people but can lead to some unhealthy attitudes and behaviors later on. It is far more efficient of you to internally compare yourself to an earlier stage of your development. This way, you gain a much healthier perspective.
You may notice that as you become more present on your personal path that you are a “future self” to others, people who try to emulate you by doing exactly what you do. Have compassion for these people by “setting a good example” for them as they grow. Avoid pushing them away. Instead, be present for them by welcoming them and offer them guidance by being the best musician that you can be. “Future self” reflections tend to give others’ permission to grow and evolve when looked at in a positive light instead of being competitive. Being the best reflection to others will help you to honor the reflections that are being shown to you!
Other reflection issues could be represented by this statement: “I never get anywhere with my auditions.” Let’s look at this statement and see where it gets you. To me, this says that someone may be stuck in their growth, not really doing very much to move away from a place in their development, and are more interested in being comfortable in a familiar place. They may not be practicing to expand their horizons and perhaps not approaching things in a manner that moves them towards a healthier “future self.” They are simply comfortable where they are and don’t wish to do much to move beyond their comfort zone where everything is “easy” and feels cozy. They could also not understand how reflections work and aren’t as growth-oriented as they could be. They are possibly choosing comfort over growth. To them, growth may be very uncomfortable, mostly because they resist it.
One way to help overcome such resistance is to use the projected feeling of a “future self” to help decide what actions are best for you. For example, imagine how you would feel at the end of learning all of your major scales, especially in returning fashion. You would probably feel as if you have more control over not only your fingers, but also your mind; the oboe would feel more at your command; you could play comfortably in any key, possibly switching back and forth between keys with greater ease as well. You would feel more empowered and happier as a person since you have accomplished such a major lesson! Now multiply that good feeling times two by applying that to minor scales as well! Who wouldn’t want to feel that way? But in order to feel that way you need to move in that direction, buy completing the challenges set in front of you, by doing the actual work of mind over matter, of taking command of your instrument. Using the statement, “I would feel really good when I can do…(blank),” will help you gain movement in your growth. Living in the possibility of such a feeling will empower you to begin moving towards that “future self” that you would like to become.
Finally, it’s important to understand that while growth can feel good, it can also feel uncomfortable at the same time. As we expand our minds we also move away from a very familiar mental place. Sometimes too rapid of movement away from this familiar place can be frightening. What is needed here is to grow at a slightly slower pace. Additionally, growth and development are uncomfortable if you resist it. Let go of the resistance, let go of the comfort zone and see what you get. You may find that you get along better with others around you, especially the ones that are reflecting a “future self” and have more compassion for those who are your “wayward self.” Your personal disposition will be at greater ease and you will be more accepting of what your universe is reflecting back to you. Basically, that translates into greater happiness, joy and fulfillment!
With this in mind, it’s not wise to compare yourself to others, but is wise to compare your “current self” with your “past self,” one that you are growing out of. That is, if you compare yourself to someone else you need to know that they have had a variety of differences in their growth that may set them apart from you. Instead, compare yourself to where you were in your own growth, say one, six or twelve months ago, or perhaps to where you want to be in one, six or twelve months. This comparison is way more beneficial to you than comparing yourself to another oboist, who may or may not be similar in age but has radical differences that have contributed to their development.
Measure yourself against your own continuum of your growth and development, not against that of other people. Use your interest in other peoples’ continuum of their growth to gain more information as to how you could better be present within your own development. The smart thing to do is to observe and take in information, in a neutral way, free from judgment of yourself and others. Then, see what is appropriate for you to learn from and apply that to your personal growth. You will be much happier as you stretch into the new self that you are becoming as well as the increased pace at which you evolve.