The Vulnerability of Being Seen (or Why I’m Scared in Guitar Class and How I’m Getting Over It)

2015-03-10 Guitar Class

I get nervous at guitar class.

Every week I get nervous.

When the teacher pulls his stool over to my music stand, I quake inside. As I try to play what I’ve been working on, no matter how well prepared I am, my fingers get wobbly and can’t find their way. I get lost. I stop. I start. I stop again. I wonder why I’m taking class at all.

I find myself stammering explanations, “Oh, we didn’t have much time to practice this week” or “I’m still getting used to this guitar” or simply, “I get so nervous!”

He’s heard it all. Everyone seems to start with a proviso,  a defensive spell we offer up like shield that will protect us from critique, from the pain of being seen and found wanting. (Anyone else watch A Knight’s Tale? “You have been weighed and measured and found wanting.”)

And yet…

What is really happening in this moment?

I am in class because I want to be. I am studying something I want to learn, just for me.

In this moment, I am where I am with my guitar playing and wherever that is is fine.

There is no exam. This is not an audition.

In fact, yesterday I understood, for what felt like the first time, that my teacher is not there to judge me. He isn’t there to dole out gold stars (oh, how I love gold stars) or failing grades.

He isn’t going to grade me but he is going to watch me. He’s going to watch so that he can determine which of all the things he knows will be most useful to me in this moment. He will be able to help me grow if I allow myself to be seen.

We all want to be seen.

Well, we all want to be seen when we’re at our best and demonstrating mad skillz and (even better) are looking svelte and having a great hair day. Yes, that’s the time for selfies and celebration!

But before you get there, you have to be here.

Not only do you have to risk getting it wrong but you have to learn to be okay with actually getting it wrong. As you learn and grow, you’re going to play the wrong string, sing the wrong note, sashay to the left when everyone is sashaying to the right. It doesn’t mean this isn’t meant for you! This is simply a part of the package. It is natural, normal and dang uncomfortable.

One of our greatest creative skills is getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. This is why it’s so important to work with (and to be) good teachers and coaches who create safe, constructive and supportive environments. It’s why developing your self-care is a profound part of the work, so you can lovingly and compassionately support your tender heart. It’s why creative living takes bravery, the bravery to risk, to experiment, to get it wrong and to show up even if it makes you nervous.

And when you do, remember to take a moment to weigh and measure and find yourself exceedingly brave.

This summer I’ll be leading a studio seminar about Creative Performance, the fine art of being vulnerable, showing up and being seen.


  1. Renee says:

    “He’s going to watch so that he can determine which of all the things he knows will be most useful to me in this moment.”

    I like that. It is a very empowering way to look at the role of a teacher and how they relate to the needs of the student in that moment. Even the teacher had to start somewhere.

  2. Suzie the Foodie says:

    You hit the nail on the head: “getting comfortable with being uncomfortable”. That is what it’s all about. Wonderfully written article Jamie and I love how you reminded us that the teacher is there to help and not judge. Part of that nervousness too is about the fact that we really want this which makes it challenging because we are putting ourselves out there. Thank you for sharing your truth and vulnerability.

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