Updated: Sep 27
Do you ever feel that no matter what you have accomplished in your voiceover career or the amount of training you’ve had - you are going to be "found out" or exposed as a fraud? Do you ever feel like you don’t deserve the successes you’ve had in your life - or your successes have just been pure luck? This pattern of behavior, doubting your accomplishments and having a constant fear of being exposed as a fraud, is referred to as Imposter Syndrome.
If this describes you, it's important to know that you are not alone. It may surprise you to know that many well-known artists, writers, actors, and high-level business people have also been plagued with these harmful thoughts. Maya Angelou, the famed author, and poet has been quoted to say, “I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh. They are going to find me out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they are going to find me out.” Meryl Streep, the most Academy Award and Golden Globe-nominated actor said in an interview, "Why would anyone want to see me again in a movie? And I don't know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?" Actor and comedian, Mike Meyers, was quoted saying, “I still believe that at any time, the no-talent police will come and arrest me.” Do a quick Google search for “imposter syndrome quotes” and you will find dozens upon dozens of quotes from gifted, talented and highly intellectual people on their feelings of inadequacy.
Do you take longer than 5 minutes to record a 30-second commercial audition? Do you do more than three takes? Do you spend hours editing these auditions, agonizing over every word you’ve recorded? And then after spending hours editing, do you throw-up your hands delete the file and go back to square one? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you might be a perfectionist. Perfectionism and imposter syndrome go hand-in-hand. Perfectionists create almost unattainable goals for themselves, then when they are unable to reach them they experience major self-doubt and worry about not measuring up. Perfectionists have a hard time realizing their successes because they feel they could have done better.
Having goals in your voiceover business is very important, but take a step back and look at them realistically. Are they attainable in the time period you’ve set for yourself? If you have just recorded your commercial demo, then it seems pretty unlikely that you are going to book a national spot during your first year on the job. But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set lofty goals for yourself, just try to make them realistic and set smaller goals to help get you there. Also, go easy on yourself. Everyone makes mistakes. In fact, that is how you learn and grow. Take them in stride and see if you can understand what lessons you can learn from them.
Do you spend every waking minute thinking, talking or working on your voiceover career? Do you feel like other parts of your life (like hobbies, family, friends) are taking a backseat to your voiceover work? (Yes, I will admit I could be a workaholic myself!) Do you get anxious or stressed when you have to do other things in your life that aren’t voiceover related? If so, then you might be struggling with a “workaholic” situation.
While passion for your work is one thing (and very important) it’s another when other parts of your life are being neglected. What makes any voice actor great is bringing their own unique life experiences to their scripts. If you have nothing outside of voiceover, then your reads can only go so far. Being well-rounded helps you to be versatile as an actor. Imposter workaholics feel they need to work really hard to prove to others that they are worthy of their position/title/status. It’s all about external validation. To turn this around, you must seek internal validation. Harder said than done, I know.
The Natural Genius
Young describes this type as the person that feels they should be naturally gifted, intellectual or a master at something without much work or time. Do you feel ashamed when you don’t get a read perfect the first time? Do you avoid challenging work because you are uncomfortable to try something you aren’t great at? Rather than effort, do you judge your competence based on how easy or how long it takes you to learn something?
It’s important to realize that some skills take tremendous amounts of practice and time. Think about doctors and attorneys. Doctors and lawyers spend years in school, residency programs and apprenticeship. Even when they are working we say they are practicing medicine or law. Guess what? The same goes for voice actors! Try to see yourself as a work in progress. Understand that voiceover skills take time to understand and craft. For example, don’t discount your clients because you don't feel as though you "get" your genre or read yet. There is a lot to be said for pushing through and gaining the valuable experience with your client. You can also pursue additional coaching to help as well as hone your skills in parallel to working the gig.
Do you feel that asking for help with an audition will let others know that you don’t know what you’re doing or are a fraud? Are you the type of person that spends hours searching the internet for a question about your microphone or editing software to prove to others that you know what you’re talking about? Young describes this person as the soloist.
It is totally ok to do things on your own. In fact, that’s how you learn new skills. However, it is a different thing if you feel that asking for help reveals that you’re a sham. Remember, asking for help is actually a sign of strength. It sometimes takes a strong person to admit when they need help. So, do your due diligence and research your question first, but don’t spend unnecessary hours trying to figure something out when there are gobs of people out there that are willing to help you. Almost everyone in this industry is very giving and willing to help you. You just need to take that first step and ask.
Do you stop yourself from auditioning for jobs that you don't consider yourself proficient in? Have you been in the industry a while but still internally shudder when someone calls you an expert or successful? If this sounds a little bit like you then you may be what Young refers to as the “expert.”
Experts feel their value is placed on what and how much they know or can do. They feel they will never know enough and fear at some point they will be exposed as inexperienced. Of course, as a voice actor, you should never stop learning and practicing your craft. It’s important to keep on top of your game and always be training and learning. Many experienced professionals in the industry still get coaching on a periodic basis to keep up their skills. That being said, this endless task of learning and seeking information can also be a form of procrastination, especially in the beginning. If you are in the beginning stages of your career, at some point you are going to have to put yourself out there, start auditioning and looking for work. Or if you have been in the game for a while and specializing in one genre of voiceover, it might be time to take a leap into something new.
Check out what the Bosses have to say
In the Why Would Anyone Hire Me? episode of VO BOSS, Gabby and I chat about the mental game of voiceover and help you to flip the script and reframe those negative thoughts. Check it out and please fee free to comment and let us know your thoughts!
You’re not alone
You may fall into one - or even more than one of these profiles. In fact, studies have shown that 70% of people experience imposter syndrome at some point in their careers. But here's a fact: Actual imposters don’t experience imposter syndrome. So there's that. Just remember that you are not alone and If you ever need a positive push in the right direction - I’m here for you and am happy to lend and ear (and voice) to help if you need! Just Contact me or feel free to set up a free 15-minute consult.
Keep on rockin' your biz,
About the Author: Anne Ganguzza is a full-time voice talent and award-winning director and producer who works with students to develop their voice over and business skills - including VO demo training and production. She specializes in Conversational Commercial and Narration styles, including Corporate, E-Learning, Technology, Healthcare - Medical, Telephony, and On-Hold. Located in Orange County, CA, Anne offers private coaching and mentoring services to students in person and via Skype, ipDTL or Zoom.