In Pursuit of Childlike Artistic Confidence

Acknowledging adult fears to liberate your artistic potential

Illustrator: Ruby Guthrie

Illustrator: Ruby Guthrie

I have been playing the cello since I was four years old, all the while my mom has been by my side with her video camera, skillfully capturing my progress as a musician. Recently, I was looking back on a video of myself playing in a cello recital as a 9-year-old. Fearlessly, I stood in front of the audience and said “My name is Olivia Fabos Martin and I’m going to play Minuet No. 1 and Minuet No. 2 by Bach.” First, I noticed that my voice was so much higher than I was expecting, yet it was also so commanding! When I started playing, my demeanor was completely unbothered. My head swayed with the music and at one point I even stumbled on a note, but I continued without it phasing me.

Performing like that is not so easy now, and I truly envy the ease of 9-year-old Olivia Fabos Martin. I think I can pin the turning point in my musical career to when I went through puberty. The carefreeness I had as a child was replaced by adolescent anxieties that most people are familiar with. And with the added pressures that start to accumulate as we age, expectations from others and from ourselves can be almost crippling sometimes. I know the feeling of playing my cello in a practice room and feeling like a million bucks. When the time comes to perform in front of people, the pressure gets inside my head: my bow shakes, my face gets red and I become angry for giving myself a sense of false confidence.

I think that the fear of judgment—from peers, from strangers, from mentors, and especially from ourselves—is an incredibly powerful feeling that many artists know well. When we have ownership over our art, whether it is an interpretation of a musical work, or an idea that became a painting, or a short film, we put a piece of ourselves out there into the world. That can be terrifying. Though we can acknowledge that this aspect of publicly displaying our art is nerve-wracking, there is also power in overcoming this fear and wholeheartedly believing in our self-expression. We can all learn to absolve ourselves from the pressures of adulthood judgements by returning to a simpler time, when our childhood confidence made us unstoppable.