Is EGO Holding You Back?


When I think about “ego,” I imagine a person who is arrogant, and thinks he/she is better than the rest of us. We tend to think of a person with a big ego is someone who feels superior to us in some way. However, in my case (and maybe in yours as well), my ego tells me I’m inadequate, that I’m not good enough, and I’ll never be good enough. And that kind of attitude can hold a person back, keep them from where they want to go in their musical journey.

Here’s a few ways the negative side of ego can hold a person back.

  • Comparison: Do you listen to some of our dulcimer heros and think, “I’ll never be able to play like that!” That’s ego telling you that you’re in a competition. Run your own race. Compare the way you play today with the way you played a week ago, a month ago, last year.
  • Impatience: It takes time to build skills, especially if you’ve never played a musical instrument before. If it’s a slow start for you, you may start to believe that’s it’s too difficult or too frustrating. Then you may begin to lose motivation. Instead, begin to find joy in what you CAN do already.
  • Perfectionism: This one is for me because I’m a bit OCD (okay, a lot OCD). I want to play all the way through a tune without a single mistake. And the harder I try, the more I slip up. Sound familiar? Perfectionism is rooted in ego, our desire to be perfect. Instead, begin to tell yourself that if you miss a note, you’re going to survive and most people won’t even notice.
  • Fear of Feedback: Our ego can make us defensive, and resistant to valuable input from others. Ken Blanchard has said, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions, but ego can turn it into a bitter pill to swallow.” Instead of cringing or getting angry when someone gives you a suggestion, savor it as an opportunity to learn without even having to pay for the lesson.
  • Inflexibility: I was in a mountain dulcimer workshop yesterday with an inflexible person. He was playing the tune “his way,” and throwing off those who were newbies on the mountain dulcimer. He wouldn’t drop out, play the melody alone, or play softly until the others could “get it” by reading the tabs. In that case, his ego was causing issues for the rest of the group. If you are more advanced than the others, be willing to simplify your playing until others are comfortable with hearing harmony at same time.

If you nodded your head in agreement with any of the categories above, you may need to shove that ego out of the way. Start with what you are telling yourself. Say, “It’s ok to struggle with learning to play.” “It’s ok to feel a bit nervous before playing in front of others.” “It’s ok to feel discouraged now and then.”

Be humble, but add in a good dose of self-confidence so you will be more comfortable responding to the musical opportunities that are opening doors for you every day.

Happy dulcimering,



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