I found this article by James Clear to be very insightful and thought-provoking. It is relevant for voice artists and anyone who “creates” for a living, which includes a lot of people beyond our typical definition of what an artist is. He opens with a story about a very famous choreographer named Agnes de Mille…
“Agnes de Mille had just achieved the greatest success of her career, but right now the only thing she felt was confusion.
She was a dancer and a choreographer. Early in her career, de Mille had created the choreography for a ballet called, “Three Virgins and a Devil.” She thought it was good work, but nobody made much of it.
A few years later, de Mille choreographed a ballet named, “Rodeo.” Again, she thought her work was solid, but it resulted in little commercial fame.
Then, in 1943, de Mille choreographed “Oklahoma!,” a musical show from Rodgers and Hammerstein that enjoyed nearly instant success. In the coming years, “Oklahoma!” would run for an incredible 2,212 performances, both around the nation and abroad. In 1955, the film version won an Academy Award.
Continue Reading James’ article about the hidden dangers of comparing yourself to others.
I especially enjoyed this passage of his article:
“If what you write on your paper doesn’t meet someone else’s expectations … it is no concern of yours. The way someone else perceives what you do is a result of their own experiences (which you can’t control), their own tastes and preferences (which you can’t predict), and their own expectations (which you don’t set). If your choices don’t match their expectations that is their concern, not yours.
Your concern is to do the work, not to judge it. Your concern is to fall in love with the process, not to grade the outcome. Keep your eyes on your own paper.”
Avoiding Self-Judgment as Voice Artists
We can put this into some perspective as working voice artists, where we are in competition daily and constantly judged by our work. I think the key takeaway here is to stay strong in the belief of our inherent talent, no matter whether we win the next voiceover audition or make the monthly income goal every single month.
Of course, it is pretty important that SOMEBODY out there is liking our voice and hiring us for jobs.
Even though you don’t win every audition you send in, it is important that you feel you are winning your fair share and have recurring voiceover clients who contact you regularly for repeat business. If that is not happening, then you are getting clear feedback that indicates something needs to change.
It’s important to notice the feedback and take appropriate action. Life is all about “course-correction” based on feedback.
While it is good to have measures and goals, it’s also necessary to value one’s gifts and express and share those gifts with the world. Most of us (I hope) became actors and voice artists because we have a genuine love for the craft and doing the work. That’s the core that we must always revisit, when the bookings or income are not in perfect alignment with our expectations.
Do you find yourself being too judgmental of your voice or voice over skills, abilities and talents? How do you deal with that and turn it around?
I would love to hear about your experiences and ways of approaching this very common artistic dilemma. Please share comments below!
Deb, I loved your article. Thank you for sharing this information. I am yet to be a voice actor but I will make sure to never compare myself.
God bless America.
Debbie Grattan says
Thanks Bobbin and Dave! Your comments have helped inspire me to do some further exploration of this topic in podcast form. I really appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts on this.
Dave Courvoisier says
Thanks for your reply, Deb. (not trying to belabor this)
Labeling such a position as living in a “higher” or “lower” place than another, judges the POV. It’s just an “alternative” position. 🙂
Everything about our culture prompts evaluation, metrics, and comparison. If that’s bad, then so is our way of life, ’cause it’s embedded in capitalism.
I compare my work to others’ constantly…while appreciating that my strengths stand alone.
What I dislike most is the disingenuous “humble brag”. When I have work accomplishments, I don’t feel the need to trumpet them on social media. I think the humble brag is the trigger for a lot of harmful self-evaluation for people.
Bobbin Beam says
This is so interesting! Comparing yourself to others is so unfair to yourself as an artist. I think it stems from worry and fear that you may not be good enough. The old “self-doubt” trick our minds tempt us to fall for.
I have the following quote taped to my studio monitor:
“Best Career Advice Ever: You can’t worry about the competition. It’s not the standard that matters. It’s the standard you hold yourself to.”
Debbie Grattan says
Thanks for commenting on this topic. It’s interesting that you say that because Paul and I were discussing the idea earlier this week while working on this post. I tend to see comparing and judging as things that originate from the “egoic” part of who I am. And, since everyone has an ego, it appears to be human nature when people do things that are egoic in nature.
However, like many things that the ego wants to do (such as worrying about things that will likely never happen), comparing is not actually necessary in most instances and can lead to bad places. So, I try to live from a higher place as much as I can, and not get pulled into these ways of thinking. It is possible to NOT compare mysef to other people (voice talent), although it takes some practice and a habit of reminding myself that I don’t need to do that. You could call it a more wholistic or spiritual perspective on competition.
From that vantage point, there is no need or reason to compare. I don’t always stay in that place, but I have learned how to shift into it when I (or more specifically, my ego) starts feeling insecure about things. It’s a big topic to address in a reply to your comment, maybe we’ll do some follow up on this. I think it would be interesting to discuss.
Merry Christmas and wishing you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!
Dave Courvoisier says
Deb…. great thoughts, and I agree with everything you say, but it’s human nature to compare yourself to others….especially in America. The important thing is whether you use the results of that comparison to tear yourself down or spur yourself on.