We’ve probably all uttered words similar to these:
- These things ALWAYS happen to me.
- It’s like I can’t do anything right.
- I NEVER have any luck.
- I just KNEW things would go wrong.
- Figures. I seem to have a black cloud over me.
Take this one step further for our voice clients:
- No one would ever want to hear me sing!
- I just don’t have a good voice.
- I HATE the way I sound.
- I’m gonna blow this audition.
- I could NEVER sound as good as (fill in the blank with the name of a speaker, singer, or actor with a great voice).
Now of course we’ve all said things like this. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to do so. In fact, it’s probably a TERRIBLE IDEA to talk this way. Why? Because you really start to believe it. You get the feeling there’s NOTHING YOU CAN DO to change these things. But there is!
I call it the power of positive thinking. Change your inner talk, that little voice inside your head that says you can’t do something, or you can never change the way things are. I used to be that way, but then I changed my thinking, thanks to some awesome courses (thank you, Michael Bernoff and his Human Communications Institute https://michaelbernoff.com/) I do things now that I was always convinced I could never do (including making videos for YouTube and actually getting 2000 subscribers, writing a blog [didn’t even know what that was back in the day], and ziplining…but I digress 😊), and even if I did them, I thought no one would care. But that negative thinking was all wrong. Let me share my story with you.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, I was going to be a singing doctor. I was fortunate at the age of 16 to get into a prestigious 6-year medical program, where I also planned to minor in music. Seemed like a great plan, except for one thing: my heart wasn’t in it. I was a very young 16, and just not ready for such a big commitment.
I felt kind of down, like I was a failure. But I wasn’t. I realized I was brave enough to make a change when I needed to, even if it felt like a risk. The risk actually paid off. I came home and went to a local university for music performance (voice) and minored in speech. Then I decided I should go on to grad school for speech pathology, and I’d be able to help lots of people, while still singing on the side. So that’s what I did.
I also always wanted to perform in a professional theater and I set my sights on the Light Opera of Manhattan (LOOM), which was my favorite off-Broadway repertory theater at the time. But could I really get in? I mean, it was a New York City theater company with a top-notch reputation. I hardly had any performance credits. And I couldn’t dance! But I said, “I’ve got nothing to lose”. I had trained hard. I auditioned…and got accepted! I started that theater job THE SAME WEEK I started my first part-time school speech therapy job! How crazy was that? But it worked! I sang hundreds of performances (7 shows a week, every week for two years, and yes, I learned to dance!), while also learning the art and science of helping kids with speech and language problems. But that still wasn’t totally where my heart was.
I realized that what I really wanted to do was open a practice in voice therapy and training and eventually leave the school job. I wanted to be good at what I did and respected by my colleagues. At the time, I thought, “Who would think of me as some kind of authority?” But then I vowed to study and learn, work with the best, and become a respected authority who could help lots of people get their voices back.
My mentors, colleagues, and friends believed in me and my abilities. I worked with experts in business, marketing, singing, speech, medicine, and so on. And slowly but surely, I came to believe in myself too. I changed my inner talk. And it worked!
I’ve run my voice-specialty private practice for 40 years. I can’t believe I quit my school job 26 years ago, and never looked back. (I even have some food left in the pantry!). It was scary to quit a job I’d had for 14 years. It was certainly a risk. But if you never take a risk, you’ll never successfully build your confidence. Take that risk, do something you thought you couldn’t, and when you succeed, remember that feeling of success. That’s how you build confidence. Change your inner talk from “I don’t think I can do it” to “I know I can do it!”. You’ll be more willing to keep trying new things with your new-found confidence. If you screw up, learn from your mistakes and you will be better equipped to deal with adversity and make better decisions. Everyone makes mistakes. Don’t be too hard on yourself; instead, figure out what went wrong, make a course correction, and go on to do the great things you’re meant to do.
So, what does this all mean to you? It means that you, too, can achieve your goals and dreams with hard work, diligence, and the desire to persevere and not give up…and changing what you tell yourself. It means that people believe in you. I believe in you.
Here’s some ways to reframe things to get you thinking more positively:
- Instead of going on and on that you could “never” do something, just change it to: “I haven’t learned to do that yet, but I will”. And then take steps to actually learn it. For me, it was learning to create online videos with cute graphics and effects. When I started, I didn’t have a clue. Other people did those things, not me. Now I design and create videos all the time, and I work with a great editor who turns my ideas into reality.
- If you complain that you’ll never finish all that paperwork, feel positive about it being part of having a job and making a living. When you finish the paperwork, that’s a step closer to earning your paycheck.
- If you complain about paying the bills for your house, feel positive about owning a house. I just cut out some cable channels to save money. I negotiated a better deal on my phone bill. I set the thermostats lower, on timers, and I’m switching the light fixtures and bulbs to LEDs. But when I put the key in the door, I feel very lucky that it’s MY home!
- If you feel negative about not having a healthy diet, realize that we’re fortunate enough to not be starving like so many now, and that we can surely learn to make better food choices. Get a book, meet with a nutritionist, get info online. We learned to make a big batch of something healthy on a Sunday (let’s say a whole bunch of baked skinless chicken pieces or turkey burgers or veggie-bean stew). Then grab a serving with a fresh salad and you can nuke yourself a healthy meal in minutes. (And yes, professional voice users, your voice is dependent on having a healthy body, so food choices matter).
- If you feel overwhelmed with the notion of starting an exercise program, go outside and take a walk. Look at the beauty of nature around you (you know being around trees and out in nature actually lowers your stress level, right?), and breathe in all that beauty. Then the next time, use a pair of light hand weights or weighted gloves to up your exercise game. Fitness is important for good singing: healthy body, healthy human instrument. Eventually, maybe you could even work with a personal trainer. Set realistic goals and tell yourself you can do it!
- Instead of lamenting about all the things you wish you could learn, start with one subject and take an online course. “One step at a time” is a great way to start. And think of how great it is that we have access to this wealth of knowledge, literally at our fingertips! Webinars, online courses, apps…even singing lessons are online now. We ought to know – we’ve been giving them for years!
So now, let’s reframe the statements from the beginning of this article.
- Instead of, “These things ALWAYS happen to me”, how about “I can work to make changes, so I am more in control of what happens in my life”.
- Instead of, “It’s like I can’t do anything right”, try “I can learn to do things right if I seek the help of experts and take things one step at a time”.
- Instead of “I NEVER have any luck”, how about “I’ve had some tough times, but things are changing for the better”.
- Instead of, “I just KNEW things would go wrong”, how about “I KNOW things are looking up, and they’re going to get better and better”.
- Instead of “Figures. I seem to have a black cloud over me”, let’s try “Next time, I’m going to do x, y, and z to make sure things go my way”. Or very simply, “I haven’t gotten good at (the task I couldn’t do right) YET, but I will!”
Now, for our singers’ statements:
- “No one would ever want to hear me sing!” becomes “If I keep studying, people will be thrilled to hear me sing!”
- “I just don’t have a good voice” becomes “I may not have a good voice YET, but I will, because I’m studying and working on my voice skills.
- “I hate the way I sound” becomes “I hated the way I sounded, so I did something positive about it and I’m getting better and better”.
- “I’m gonna blow this audition” becomes “I’m going to get help from my teacher and really practice and prepare, and I’m going to nail this audition!”
- “I could NEVER sound as good as (fill in the blank with the name of a speaker, singer, or actor with a great voice)” becomes “I don’t have to sound as good as anyone else. I just need to work on being the best that I can be. There will always be people better than me at singing (or public speaking, acting, etc.), and people worse than me. I’m just going to strive to be the best version of me that I can be, and no one can stop me or discourage me!”
Let’s really take that first step toward positivity this week. Pick one thing you can work on in terms of changing your inner talk. Even if you think it’s a little step, it’s still significant. The next step will be easier, and then the next, and so on. You’ll see, you’ll be turning negatives into positives in no time. I’m positive!