Sam Newsome

Sam Newsome
"The potential for the saxophone is unlimited." - Steve Lacy

The 55 Bar - Thursday, July 25, 2019

A Noise From The Deep: A Greenleaf Music Podcast with Dave Douglas

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Social Anxiety, the Serenity Prayer and Creativity

I haven’t told many this, but I’ve always struggled with social anxiety for most of my life.  I’m happy to say that it has become less of an issue the older I've gotten. This is a good thing. Because when you’re five years old, people think that social awkwardness is cute. However, when you’re 50, people think that you’re strange. Let’s just say I’ve come a long way from my early childhood when I battled selective mutism

It’s funny how during high school people used to always think that I was happy because I was always smiling. When actually, incessant smiling is a common symptom of social anxiety. Smiling in the face of misery. I call it the SITFOM effect.

To help conquer this issue, my mother did two things: One, she put me in as many social situations as possible. If your kid is afraid of the water, solution: Throw him or her in the pool, face first. I was fortunate in that she signed me up for a lot of music and art classes. The art classes enabled me to explore my creativity, and the music classes allowed me to be social while having a musical instrument to hide behind. A crutch that's still used to this day.  Secondly, to help ease my mind when feeling stressful she'd have me recite the “Serenity Prayer.”

If you're not familiar with it, this is the abridged version my mom would have me say:

“Dear Lord, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.


I’m mentioning this because this prayer has served as a foundation for how I now navigate life and creativity.

My advice to students and friends is usually to "focus on you can control, not on what you can’t."

If I get too focused on my career, my music, or life, in general, I ask myself: Are you eating enough healthy food? Is your living environment clean and organized? Are you drinking enough water every day? Or, what can you do to help others? I really focus on the basics—things that I am sure are within my control.

I’m a firm believer that directing one's energy towards these kinds of things creates good karma that will, in turn, put one in the mindset to make their more lofty goals more attainable.

And besides, focusing on these basic, less self-centered things gives me a stronger sense of satisfaction. I see myself as being in control of my life, rather than being a victim of circumstance. 

From a creative perspective, I try not to spend energy on what I can’t do, but instead, try to focus on what I can do very easily, something I've come to identify as my natural genius: doing that which you might see as being too easy. 

I love this quote credited to Albert Einstein:

 “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

I'm sure we've all been fish trying desperately to climb trees. Society has conditioned us to believe that we need to be good at everything--especially music education. Which goes against the grain of tapping into your natural genius.

The hardest thing about embracing your natural genius is giving yourself permission to do so. We've convinced ourselves that if struggling is not built into what we do, that it’s not valid. It’s as though we need to feel like victims of creative circumstance.

Is a meal that takes five minutes to prepare less delicious or healthy than one that takes five hours to prepare? I think not. 

Surrender. Relinquish control. Leave it to fate. Put it into the hands of the Lord. Take the path of least resistance. However you choose to look at it, remember that the clearer the mind, the clearer you’ll be able to see things, consequently, making better decisions. 

As far as my social anxiety issues. They still exist. But I try to focus more on what others might be feeling and their needs, rather than thinking that everybody is watching me and is out to get me. Seems to work. Oh...and if you are a fish, stay out of trees, and if you're a monkey, don't try to make your home in the deep sea. Life can be difficult enough being where we're supposed to be, no need living your life of as a primate swimming with the dolphins.

* Regarding the Einstein quote, there's no concrete proof that he actually said it.  But it is a wise quote, nonetheless.

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