Overcoming Fear and Self-Doubt

Part of the stereotype of the actor is that they tend to have fragile egos. I like to think that I have a healthier ego than that stereotype, as a result of being a pretty secure person who is well-loved by his family and friends. Yeah, if you saw my collection of 750+ airplane models, you might conclude a mild case of OCD – and I wouldn’t argue – but I’m not a neurotic, narcissistic drama queen either. So I surprised myself when I recently had my own mini-crisis of fear and doubt.


It happened last week, when I started recording VO tracks for my new narrations demo. This major project is the last duck I need to get in a row before I can really begin my next big marketing push of contacting both out-of-state and international talent buyers. So there is a lot at stake here for my career. A LOT.


Well, the results of my recording session that first day left me very disappointed. When I listened back to my tracks, nothing was bad by any means, but there was certainly no spark at all. I knew exactly what was happening: I was having feelings of fear and doubt, and those feelings had crept into my performance. And that is how performance works – whatever is true inside of you emotionally will come through in your read. No matter how good your voice quality is, you cannot fake this – it must be dealt with for anything “magic” to happen.


I actually had the thought, “maybe I’m a hack! Maybe I’m really not that good,” which is not the sort of feelings I have on a regular basis. I was feeling the pressure of my expectations, big-time. It was not just a lack of confidence behind the mic, it was my fear of rejection which certainly lies ahead of me as I try to build relationships with new people who can hire me as a talent. It’s not fun to make cold calls, to get “thanks, but no thanks” replies – even IF the people I approach bother to reply (typically in my business, it is acceptable for them NOT to reply at all, as they are inundated with pitches from talent). I hate to admit it, but that prospect is scary to me, and it is one of the factors explaining why it took so long for me to get started on re-inventing myself.


I’m hoping you have read this far, because now I’m going to tell you how I got myself out of this rut. My techniques should apply to people who are not performers, too. I think my plan will help anybody who finds themselves in a crisis of confidence.


The first thing I did was to PREPARE myself better. I got a good night’s sleep. After I showered, I used my Neti Pot to clear out my sinuses (works like a charm, and really improves the resonance in my voice). Then, I spent less than 10 minutes doing some Chi-Kung moves. Chi Kung is a form of Tai Chi, and it has an amazing ability to calm me and help me feel grounded and present. Then I did a few Yoga stretches a friend had taught me that helped to loosen up my chest muscles – which also helps make my voice more resonant. So physically, I was now well prepared.


Next, I prepared myself emotionally. To drown out that old tape of “you’re not good enough,” I thought of times in my career when I was well praised for my performance. I thought of the time early in my career when a studio owner said “I’ve been in this business for 20 years, and you are one of the top three I have EVER worked with. And I have worked with a lot of ‘heavy hitters’ in the biz.” I remembered more such feedback, ending with a session I had just THREE DAYS AGO (!) when I was in a session at the top studio in Chicago with a roomful of young creatives who weren’t all on the same page direction-wise. At one point, after proving myself a VO Gumby by taking all of their conflicting directions, the lead producer opened up his mic and said, “were all just shaking our heads in here at just how damn good you are at this.” As I remembered each of these very positive events, I could feel my doubt fading away. And then it was gone.


The last thing I did was a technique that is specific to VO, though it would also work for any public speaking. It’s a simple technique that I was taught by my voice-over guru, Marice Tobias. Basically, I read each sentence in a script as it is written, then I put it in my own words and paraphrase it out loud. I’ll go deeper in to the meaning by explaining in greater detail every claim I am making (even if I have to make the details up). This technique is a terrific way to “sell myself” on the ideas in the script, and to communicate with meaning and intention – which a whole other level above merely “reading with words in a pleasant voice.” This strategy always works like a charm, and if you could hear the “before” and “after” of doing this technique, you might be amazed at what a difference it makes. I repeated this before I began reading each new script.


The end result of my second session, after all this preparation, was simply wonderful. It felt totally “on,” and every script I recorded was just terrific! I felt that was actually performing up to my full potential. The contrast to the tracks I recorded the day before, when I was in self-doubt mode, was stunning.


So if you ever find yourself in a state of fear and self-doubt, know that you CAN get yourself out of it! I hope you will find some of these techniques useful in doing so. Thanks for listening!

AUTHOR: tomtest-wpadmin     CATEGORIES: Blog
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