Un-Failing at Life: Don’t Care What “They” Think

We all have a “they” – the haters and [concern] trolls who are higher up in the food chain and who fill us with insecurity. The sooner you stop caring what “they” think, the better. 

Much of my professional life has been defined by trying to call out and combat the sexism that continues to exist in jazz. Recently, I had an epiphany – that although I should continue to acknowledge and resist sexism, I needed to stop caring what other musicians (particularly patriarchal male types) thought about me as a musician or human being. Here are the three main areas where I’ve had to stop caring what others think about me:

I sleep…a lot

Pros: I feel well-rested, rarely mess with an alarm or caffination, and maybe, just maybe, might avoid sleep apnea and the like

Cons: Feeling like a slacker when people brag about surviving on five or less hours of sleep a night

“Un-Failure”: Although I love being a freelancer, I’ve still found myself getting upset at the stereotype of self-employed people as lazy and functionally unemployed; putting my health, happiness, and productivity (not to mention ability to lose weight) above others seems like a no-brainer, but to me it’s a huge victory

I eat a ridiculously restricted diet

Pros: I look and, more importantly, feel a lot better not eating gluten, dairy, and the like (I also still enjoy a fair bit of variety because I’m not allergic to soy, nuts, etc.)

Cons: Food is a big part of family and culture – so if you say you’re not eating most of it, people tend to get a little upset or annoyed (and the added societal expectation that women be effortlessly thin…)

“Un-Failure”: Admittedly, the more weight I lost, the less people freaked out about my eating and more they started asking about my dietary habits (usually ending with, “that’s awesome that you’re able to, but I could never do that!”); but like sleep, I need to recognize that health choices have a huge impact on my quality of life and shouldn’t be affected by the opinions and judgments of others

I don’t practice very much by jazz musicians’ standards

Pros: I have time for self-care, family, hobbies, and practicing other instruments (in a time-effective manner) – I’m also at far less risk of a performance-related injury

Cons: Fearing that I’ll confirm the beliefs of the lurking boogeyman of female jazz musicians: the male jazz musician who thinks female musicians are inherently inferior, less dedicated, etc.

“Un-Failure”: This is a huge paradigm shift and it feels like a huge weight has been lifted off of me (the last time I felt this way was when I decided to leave academia); I acknowledged that people’s attitudes weren’t going to change by me killing myself trying to practice 8 hours a day and that, again, my well-being was more important than the opinions of others

Is there an area of your life where you’ve had to stop caring what “they” think?

Author: Leah Pogwizd

Bassist and Instructor

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