There I was, on stage, in front of none other than DJ Khaled. I had been looking forward to this for weeks. I should have been focused on this moment, focused on my music.
Instead, my mind was clouded with fear. I couldn’t stop thinking about the competition, about how talented my competitor was: Is this all a mistake? What if her performance is better than mine?
We often have a way of fearing into fruition. My fear caused my performance to suffer and I ended up in second place behind the very performer I feared losing to. I’ll never forget the words DJ Khaled had for me: I loved your set. I just wish you would’ve had more confidence and conviction behind your performance.
Setbacks are inevitable. And when I’ve experienced setbacks with my music, I’ve tried to always remind myself that nothing’s permanent, that there’s always an opportunity to learn and move on.
A few months later, I walked into the offices at Island Def Jam, one of the biggest record labels at the time. My demeanor on the outside was confident; inside, I was a complete wreck.
Though I had tried to move on from the competition, the memory was still raw in my mind. The old thoughts of self-doubt clawed at my focus, my mind a battlefield of betraying thoughts. But I couldn’t let them win again. I kept telling myself: This moment is mine and I’m going to own it.
I played the first track, nodding my head along and tapping my feet as though I’d never heard my own song before. The record exec sat there motionless with a completely blank expression.
My heart was beating out of my chest; any harder and it would’ve been mistaken as part of the song. But I didn’t dare let it distract me. Finally, I noticed the exec begin to mimic my movements, nodding his head and tapping his feet. Afterward, he said: You know, I like the music. But more importantly, I like your ability to convince me that I like your music.
That was the moment I learned that confidence is important, despite any feelings of doubt. It was when I found it’s a muscle that has to continually be exercised. And it was when I realized I could have the opportunity to do things I never thought possible if I just stared fear in the face and did it anyway.