Our voices reflect whatever is going on and whatever we are going through. And this applies to what is happening in our personal lives as well as with our physical health.
At the beginning of our development and careers, we singers often underestimate the power of this mind-body-voice connection. Persistence, pride and intense schedules often allow us to barrel through emotional (and vocal) challenges with us none the wiser.
Yet, in time, the cracks begin to show.
Take a look at the chart below. Do you experience any of these common issues and fears? If so, consider that addressing them may be as important to your vocal development as your personal development.
Feeling insecure and uncomfortable is not a requirement
Many of us singers assume that being insecure and uncomfortable in our skin is ‘normal,’ particularly those of us embarking on performance careers.
I don’t believe this. In fact, while we all have our moments of uncertainty and self-doubt, I think that self-knowing, confidence and comfort are the cornerstones of being professionally and personally successful.
There are of course many reasons why we human beings aren’t at peace with ourselves. Our pasts, our current circumstances, and our relationships – and the stories that we tell ourselves and others about all three – play a huge role.
Cultural notions of talent and success have a huge impact
There is an added cultural component that begins in childhood and comes into play for singers, and indeed, for all of us: we intertwine our personal value and sense of worth with notions of talent and success. This focus on (and obsession with) how “good” and “talented” we and others are breeds competition and insecurity. It prevents the healthy emergence of confidence, curiosity and self-discovery.
In the West, this is further compounded by our individualistic and independent tendencies. As a culture, we place personal striving and success over and above familial and communal participation and enrichment, leaving us feeling isolated and unsettled.
These tendencies preclude many of us from recognizing that we already are and have always been enough. Even the suggestion of inherent worth and success — without having to do or prove anything — makes many people balk, when in fact, we are all worthy just as we are, however we are.
Know your worth
If you want to create and sustain a successful and enjoyable career, believing in your worth is critical. Rather than the stress, fear and insecurity that come from being attached — from needing to be a great singer — self-assuredness grants us the healthy space and perspective necessary for true commitment and passion to blossom.
It brings us to a place where we can truly enjoy using and sharing our voices. Where we can stop riding the emotional roller coaster of being defined by our singing and how we may or may not sound or be perceived on a given day.
How do we move from attachment to commitment, from desperation to curiosity, from proving ourselves to sharing ourselves?
By first accepting and embracing ourselves — and our voices — exactly as we are in this moment.
Try this exercise
Stand in front of a mirror and consider yourself. Consider all that you are, and all that you believe you are not.
Let the messages of unworthiness have their say … then let them pass. They are not true. You are alive. You are here. You have things to do and pursue and contribute to this world. That is enough. You are enough.
When we finally accept ourselves as we are, we find peace with ourselves, comfort in our own skin, and contentment in and contributing to our communities. And we can embrace our voices with the perspective and humility required to truly develop and dance with them.
Vocal benefits of self-acceptance
Because that’s what a relationship with your voice is: a beautiful dance of two entities intertwining and delighting in one another. Putting our fears into perspective helps us immerse ourselves in this joy and freedom, leading to:
– Improved Technique: No longer needing to prove ourselves, we can release the fearful vice grip many of us have on our voices and finally let them sing. Rather than controlling and manhandling them, their music and magic can finally emerge.
– Improved Breathing: Our bodies know how to breathe without our active involvement. Still, many of us over-try to ‘help’ a system that operates perfectly on its own. With confidence, trust rushes in, allowing for the healthy distance required to first observe, then assist our breathing.
– Improved Pitch: Pitch is an issue that most of us – confident or not – try ineffectively to control. Even though our vocal cords vibrate hundreds of times a second, it’s hard to resist the temptation to try to create or confirm pitches with our throats. With patience, our understanding of pitch shifts, and the playfulness required to recognize – and be in awe of – how powerful the ear is in leading the way emerges.
– Improved Stage Presence: Self-confidence and comfort naturally extend to how we feel and perform onstage and in the studio. When we are not distracted and self-focused, our best voices, and selves, emerge and shine. We are able to be with, rather than in front of our audiences.
– Increased Comfort, Pleasure and Joy: Lastly, we can finally come full circle to why we started singing in the first place: Joy. Fun. Feeling alive. A career in music has its challenges and frustrations. But the ability to return, moment to moment, to the glorious sense of our voices moving through our bodies and into the world makes it all worth the ride.
Add self-love to your skill set
Continue to do the work of vocal development, singers. Practice like crazy, write songs, take care of your health and cultivate your business sense. And take care of yourselves as well. Get to know and nurture the wonderful human being that you already are and always have been. Your voice — and you — will be forever grateful.
If you haven’t read my latest book- The Art of Singing Onstage and in the Studio- learn more here!