Embracing  Vulnerability


Kristal Barlaan,

I recently heard a joke, “If you want to feel bad about your new achievement, google it adding 5-year-old doing it…..”

Unless you are the blessed few (like the 5 year old playing the Handel Harp Concerto…), you are no stranger to the vulnerability that comes with being a musician and harpist. Self-doubt, mistakes, being ill-equipped, external or internal judgment, high standards, expectations, and disappointments are just a few ways we experience vulnerability negatively.

With high-stress performance cultures, we often put up walls, wear masks, and create ideal identities, all for the perception of strength, success and safety. However, our self-imposed walls and masks often feels hollow, driving up our anxiety and triggering the need to escape.  This cycle of mask, insecurity, anxiety, and vulnerability leads us to believe vulnerability is entirely bad news.

In addition, the daily task of musicians is the conflict between striving towards mastery and the question, “Am I worthy?”

How then do we embrace vulnerability in a powerful way?

1. Name It – take time to get down and dirty to identify your basic musical fears and desires.  

  • “I fear inferiority when…”
  • “I fear shame when..”
  • “I fear helplessness when..”
  • “I fear invalidation”
  • “I desire fulfillment”
  • “I desire affirmations”
  • “I desire respect”
  • “I desire beauty”

     By naming what triggers our masks, walls and negative vulnerabilities, we see our patterns. Patterns remove the mysteries and empower us to take charge to eliminate the negative.

2. Tame It – Be kind to yourself and define when you feel successful. Set your own expectations; define your goals and if/when you achieve them. With a career focused on continual growth, set your growth within your control instead of reacting or feeling helpless.

3. Befriend It – When we begin to befriend vulnerability and embrace the unpredictability and imperfections of our music, careers, and life, our anxiety level lowers and our peacefulness increases.  

4. Use It – Authenticity is the use of vulnerability. This is who I am, this is what I can do, this is what I love. Begin to practice openness, peacefulness, and self-compassion in your daily musical journey.

Embracing vulnerability is the starting point of strength and success.  Vulnerability empowers you as a musician. Embrace yourself as the harpist you are.  Open yourself to share and be seen at your core – your raw, authentic self.  Know that you are worthy; your music is worthy.



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