Put Down the Ruler.
We’ve all done it. Scrolling through social media and seeing a friend or colleague who is celebrating a recent win, a new client, or a seemingly perfect life. The gut reaction teeters between “Omgosh, that’s fantastic! Good for them!” to “Look at them, they are so successful and happy. I work just as hard, how come I’m so stuck? No one will ever hire me.” As voice actors, it’s very hard to not compare yourself to others in the industry. We’re an incredibly friendly group. We like to be social. We put our shiny happy moments on social media. (We kinda have to as business owners). There are countless ways to compare yourself to others, but if you choose that path, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds. You rob yourself of purpose, joy, and time by constantly trying to measure yourself against others’ successes. And the truth of it is, it’s all an illusion. It’s an unfair reflection in a funhouse mirror because we always look at what we think is the worst of ourselves and what seems to be the best in others. It’s a losing formula. So, what can we do about it? Well, put down the pint of ice cream (chocolate chip mint for me), and let’s see.
Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid.
You’ve heard that the first step to recovery is awareness. Yep. You have to be able to take a good look at the habit of comparison, and how it harms your happiness. Ask yourself, “Am I happier when I compare myself? Do I feel better about who I am and what I’m doing?” And if you want to go really deep, ask yourself, “What do I get out of comparing myself to others?” Many times, we get the strange rationalization or justification that our pessimistic mind seeks. “See, I told you that you weren’t good enough.” Comparison can be toxic for your Voiceover business. It’s important to create a sense of self-awareness that will allow you to take a step back and look at what is happening from an objective point of view. Be able to see the habit for what it is, self-destructive and self-sabotaging. When you allow yourself to understand that comparison is human nature and that it’s part of what we learned growing up, you can start to create a space of choice between the stimulus of what you see and how you respond, both internally and externally.
Now that you’re aware of the habit, you can start to use your powers for good. A great way of shifting the destructive self-narrative is to stop measuring yourself against others and take a look back instead. Look back at how far you’ve come. Look back at where you started in your voice actor journey. If your five or ten year ago self could see you now, they would be SO proud. Then stop and really take stock of where you are now. What can you confidently say about your acting skills and VO experience that you know now? What are you grateful for? What about VO brings you joy? Gratitude helps us to realize all the amazing things about who we are, what we have, and what we do. Hold on to that. Then with that in mind, go one step further. Imagine yourself five or ten years from now. Based on how far you’ve come, visualize how far you’ll go as a voice actor.
Choose your Filter.
Many years ago someone told me that the energy I felt when I was nervous at an audition is the exact same energy I feel when I’m excited. The only difference is how I’m choosing to interpret that energy. The same can be said of how we differentiate between comparison and inspiration. Make no mistake, this paradigm shift takes work. When you can find inspiration and learn from other successful voice actors, you will rise above and move forward more easily. Be humble, ask questions, work hard. Everyone is on a different path to success. You can use the inspiration you feel to help drive and motivate yourself through difficult tasks that might otherwise bog you down. Use every ounce of energy you can find to inspire yourself to prompt a positive direction and forward momentum.
Rocky Road or Butter Pecan.
Let’s get back to that pint of ice cream. When you step up to the counter to order ice cream, you’re presented with many different flavors. What you end up choosing depends on what you’re in the mood for that day. Just because you choose Butter Pecan over Rocky Road doesn’t make Rocky Road any less valid of an ice cream. You can take that same analogy and transfer it to the casting process. All of us voice actors are different flavors and the casting agent picks which flavor they feel in the mood for today. Whether you’re chosen or not for a particular job does not invalidate you and your work as a VO professional. Recently a student of mine told me a story that summed it up nicely:
“Several years ago, I was auditioning for an on-camera role in a commercial. I got called back and my agent told me it was between me and one other actor. When I showed up to the callback, it turned out my acting teacher was the other actor being considered. I thought ‘well, crap’, there goes that. While I was waiting, I was able to spy on his audition. He was great, of course. So, when I went in after I thought, I might as well have a good time because there is no way I’m going to be able to be better than him. I ended up booking the gig because I relaxed and genuinely had fun, and we actually talked about the experience the following week in class. That’s when I learned, in my bones, that I can only be the best version of myself and no one else. Because in the end I can’t morph myself into something I’m not, so I might as well have a good time as my 100% authentic self."
Really, you are! Your unique set of gifts, experiences, and talents are amazing. And they are exclusive to you. You are able to contribute a very specific interpretation of every script, every line, every audition. We’re all thrown together on this planet at the same time, and we’re all on our own journey. So embrace your unique BOSS-NESS! Get out there and be big and bold and bright! Be the best Butter Pecan you can possibly be! And now, I'm hungry! :)
Much love and 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.