Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Do you know how to live fearlessly? I sure didn’t! I had so many fears  swirling and looping around in my head that I was stuck in a rut for many, many years. My fears were very real to me, especially the fear of being judged and criticized. But my biggest fear  of all was  the fear of not being good enough.  It wasn’t until I became sick with Lyme disease, that I discovered the holistic path to wellness and recovered by means of uncovering the root causes of both physical and emotional issues. I had to look into my past in order to release many of my fears.  And this led me to my insecure childhood and teen years and….playing the piano.

I started piano lessons at seven and playing piano soon became second nature to me. By the time I was sixteen, I had performed with an orchestra and had my own debut recital, but I didn’t dream of becoming a concert pianist. My dream was to become a female Keith Emerson (keyboard wiz of the 70’s progressive rock band, Emerson, Lake and Palmer) and tour with my own band!

Do you see the worried look in my eyes?

There was only one small problem with that.  I had a fear of playing in front of people. In fact,
I was scared out of my mind! This fear began  when I entered piano competitions when I was eight years old. I just wasn’t ready for it. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was too young and not emotionally equipped to deal with the fact that I would be judged  and criticized for something
I loved to do. I didn’t make it to the finals that year.  Or the year after that. I started to think, maybe:

“I wasn’t good enough”And so it began.

The fear of “not being good enough” prevented me from achieving goals and dreams relating to the piano. I performed classical music quite often as a teenager, and did win a lot of competitions.. At the same time, each performance was a battle of fear and love. My thoughts of not being good enough were so overpowering that many times, I would forget the music, draw a blank and resort to faking it to get through the performance.  My fear of  “going blank”  was also a wake-up call. It  made me realize that I didn’t want to perform classical music anymore. I wanted to do my own thing. I didn’t want to worry about playing each note perfectly and struggling with difficult technical passages. I didn’t want to worry about being judged or criticized. I still wanted to play music  but I wanted to play my own music.  And so I started to write songs, learned how to sing, formed a band and recorded some demos.  And performed in Manhattan venues and elsewhere for many years.

I retired from performing when I had my kids, and was teaching piano from my home.  A few years ago, while recovering  from  chronic Lyme Disease, I started composing pieces for my students to perform.  I never had formal training to  prepare me for a career as a composer.  But somehow I knew that if I trained my foggy brain to create music, then I could ultimately help heal my mind and soul. Composing was not easy at first. It would take me months to compose a simple piano piece. But at the back of my mind, I kept on telling myself - “this is good for me, this is therapeutic, I need to do this.”  Composing put me in a good mood and made me feel productive. And looking back, I realize now that “I’m not good enough” or fear of failure never crossed my mind when I sat down to write.  And best of all,  my piano students loved to play and perform my pieces!

And now,  I’m happy to announce the launching of my new website,  DANETTE WHELAN MUSIC, where you can find my original piano pieces, arrangements  and ensemble compositions.   Sheet music, for all my pieces, is also available on my Etsy Store.

Getting my music out there and sharing what I love has been a dream of mine for many years.  But I had to change my perspective in order to make this “dream” into reality. As I dissolved the paralyzing blocks of fear, I realized that I was the one who was judging myself  too harshly.
I was the one who was being too self-critical. I was the one who could never be good enough.  

I created these destructive thoughts about myself and now it was time to change these thoughts. Now it was time to let that inner light shine through. I recaptured that loving inner light that I had as a child, when I was first learning how to play piano. That same inner light that says do what you love for love is what you are. Do what you love for that is what it is all about. Doing what you love  will lead to happiness and fulfillment.

And somehow, now, I am feeling incredibly free. (See Forgiveness Heals for therapies to release past emotional conflict.)

I am finally free of the powerful fear of judgment and the damaging fear of criticism.  And I am now, free to do what I love.  

Doing what you love is about living fearlessly.

Living fearlessly is about living lovingly.

And living lovingly is simply  just that:

Living with love in your heart...always.


Anonymous said...

Awesome post!

Miracle Troubadour said...

Overcoming fear is the most inspiring, the best story. As one who could never live up to my ego's demands of me (and now really enjoying laughing at them) I especially liked your description of your becoming aware that it was really only "you" blocking you from realizing You

healerdealer said...

I appreciate your comment, Miracle Troubadour! I find that I'm laughing at my silly ego half of the time now - still working on the other half, lol. Getting closer to the realization that everything is inside of us and it all starts with a "thought." :)

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful piece of writing! You have really nailed it.

I've never had any urge to write my own music, but I love delving into other people's music, searching for the hidden meanings. I too used to be paralyzed with fear, horrible memory slips, which I finally realized were due to the critical voices from my past. I don't remember any of my 12-13 teachers telling me what I did well, it was always just criticism, criticism, criticism. As a result I never developed a balanced picture of myself as a pianist. I just knew that audiences responded to my playing, and teachers didn't. I would even find myself countering compliments from members of the audience with a detailed description of what I didn't do right. I quit doing that when I saw the crestfallen look on their faces, as if somehow they couldn't trust their own judgement.

I finally came to the conclusion that I had to focus on what I loved about the pieces I played. I still work very hard at presenting the pieces in their best, most accurate light, but I have also come to accept my limitations at that particular moment in time, the moment of the performance. I say to myself, as a kind of mantra, "This is who I am, for better or worse." I pray that I convey enough of what I love about this particular piece so that the audience will at least understand, if not sympathize with, why I love it enough to risk exposing myself to the critical eyes of an audience.

The one compromise I have made is that I very rarely perform anything from the standard repertoire. Apart from the fact that these pieces have been performed and recorded so often, it seems to be my mission in life to expose to the light of day unknown masterpieces. At the moment I am working on four pieces by historical (dead) women composers which, in my professional opinion, are the equal of anything else written at the time, and which have been neglected solely due to the gender of the composers. It is both an inspiring and challenging project! But the love I have for this music is stronger than my fears, and has also, incidentally, helped me to overcome my own technical limitations. In the process I have developed a new confidence in myself.

You are right, Danette! Love drives out fear. Do what you love.

healerdealer said...

Thank you for sharing your personal story of overcoming "the voices from the past" and finding your own voice, Anonymous!

As a teacher, I focus on not only the skills and tools to master the piano, but give each of my students positive guidance and the gift of creating and enjoying music. I had the same experience as you. All I remember is criticism and very little praise. I vowed I wouldn't be that kind of teacher. I want my students to love music and be happy about their accomplishments and not have piano lessons be a traumatic experience - especially for the sensitive ones.

As a pianist, I have found that playing my own music has no history - so it's easier for me to stay in the present moment. BTW, I love your mantra "this is who I am" - I believe I will say it myself!