I was once at a wedding celebration of a friend. It was a grand occasion as weddings usually are. There was fun, frolic, and a festive mood at the venue. Relatives and friends were huddled in groups, some enjoying the gourmet wedding food, some engaged in an impromptu session of dumb charades, and some playing the game Antakshari. I chose to stay away and observe the proceedings, as excited participants cheered and booed alternately at the wins and losses of the teams. It was then that I noticed this young shy man standing just outside the huddle of people. He looked nervous and excited at the same time. His body posture told me that he wanted desperately to be part of the fun but could not muster up the confidence to request to be part of the game.
Then came a point in the game when one of the teams was stuck with trying to think of a song and was about to concede defeat. That was when the young man finally mustered up the courage to walk up to one of the team members of the distraught team and help them with a name of a song. Upon hearing this, the team member exclaimed in excitement and requested the man to sing on their behalf. What happened after that was something profoundly unexpected and yet so endearing. The ‘shy’ man transformed completely into an earnest and hearty crooner. He grabbed the mike that was with the opposing team and sang his heart out. It was as though I was watching the caterpillar turn into a butterfly in front of my eyes. On that day, the realisation came to me that music can be such an empowering force even for the uninitiated.
I have discovered now that music can be a way to bolster self-worth. This happens at different levels. When a person is engaged in learning any form of music, be it vocal, instrumental or percussion, what he or she is doing is, in fact, trying to create a piece of beauty. When one is able to create something beautiful from his or her voice or hands in the form of beautiful sounds, he or she feels beautiful and worthy from within. This is a form of self-validation, something that makes one feel good about oneself.
Secondly, when one sings or performs in front of others, one is able to connect to them without having to talk. It is a way of relating to other people without having to muster up the courage to approach them directly. And being able to sing or play music allows for people to connect so effortlessly that confidence builds in the person automatically.
Thirdly, music helps us feel okay with our vulnerabilities and innermost fears. What we cannot talk about, we can express through the music we sing or play. When we do that, things that make us feel fearful and shy come out through the music and get communicated to the audience. And many times, in the audience, we can find the empathy and understanding that we so yearn for because they can feel their own vulnerability through the music they hear. When this happens, a profound levelling happens and everyone is bound by the unconscious realisation that no matter what might separate them outwardly, they are actually one. There is no room for self-consciousness or fear after this. Confidence is a natural by-product of this environment.
This is why, time and again, I recommend music as a way to enrich our inner lives. It is a surprisingly easy and yet powerful way to overcome fears, build our self-confidence and connect with others. Music is accessible, fun, and beautiful at the same time. Learning to play a string, wind or percussion instrument or learning to sing might be the first easy step one can take towards building feelings of self-worth and confidence. This can be used even for children so that self-confidence can be built from an early age. It can be used in different stages of our lives, through challenging times or periods of self-doubt.
Music can be a reliable confidante that will never leave us or let us down. It can give us feelings of security, stability, and empathy that we sometimes struggle to find outside during trying times. And then, with the energy and strength we derive from this feeling of self-worth that we find through music, we can go back into the world renewed and refreshed with our reborn, bolstered, and confident selves.
The writer is a vocalist of both Hindustani and Carnatic Classical music, with over three decades’ experience. She is also the founder of Music Vruksh, a venture to make classical accessible for its aesthetic and wellness benefits.