Updated: Jan 13
Each of us has weaknesses. Things that we know deep down don’t quite feel right and can hold us back from becoming better people. It could be procrastination, shyness, perfectionism or maybe one of the other hundreds of things that us fallible humans can be afflicted with. And what is really strange is that even though we recognize these flaws and understand how they hold us back, somehow it is so bloody hard to change them. Even though we know it would help us become better people. Being a human can be a real pain in the arse sometimes!
And like everyone else, I am not immune to this. I have many faults. Ask my wife and she will tell you they are too numerous to mention! But I have one that really holds me back. One that affects almost all aspects of my life. One that I am working so, so hard to improve. Ever since I can remember, I have always been a people pleaser. I want people to like me. Nothing made me feel better than getting the approval of others. This made me like a chameleon in social situations. So much so, I even subconsciously adjusted my accent when talking with a group of people who were not from where I was from. Weird? Yes, I suppose to those who do not have this tendency, that could be incredibly weird!
But that sounds pretty harmless I hear some people say. And, I suppose, in the grand scheme of things, there could be much worse psychological issues that I could be afflicted with. And you would probably be right. But that is the amazing thing about the human psyche. Everyone has such a wildly different way of looking at the world. It is part of what makes this rollercoaster ride of life so unique for each person.
So why is seeking approval such a problem? In the creative world, especially any type of acting and voiceover, your choices should be made based solely on an honesty from inside. As soon as you bring in the thought of what would others think about your choices, that truth is starting to be diluted, if not lost completely. And bringing your honesty to a character is probably one of the most important things you can do. It’s what connects you with audience. There is something intangible and ethereal about watching someone perform from a truly personally honest place.
And that can really affect your voiceover auditions. When I first started in voiceover, too many times my mind asked, “what are they wanting”, “what will they think?”, “will they like it?”. And when you are trying to figure out the honesty of any script, even a corporate narration or eLearning project, those questions are completely and utterly irrelevant when making your choices. All that matters is what does the script mean to you? How do you feel about it? How can you bring an honesty to the words on that page? Because, let’s face it, everything about what we do in voiceover is subjective. How in the world are you going to figure out what the casting director or production company is actually looking for? It’s hard enough to figure out what you think the script is trying to say without the additional pressure of imagining if that matches what “they” actually want. In most cases, they don’t even know what they bloody want!
Now, you would think that because I know my issue, I can fix it. That my knowledge and experience has taught me that caring what others think about my performances and auditions is irrelevant. If I am happy with what I did, then that is all that matters. Jeez, I wish it was as easy as that. Don’t get me wrong, I have improved my mindset on this since recognizing it was a problem. But it is so damn hard. Human nature seems to conspire to keep it bubbling under the surface. Just when I think I have a handle on it…BOOM…it comes back and reminds me I don’t have life figured out just yet!
And that’s OK. I have come to terms with it. It is something that I work on everyday which gives me focus on what to do in each audition. I recently posted my mission statement for this year on Linked-in which has over 1,500 views and many comments. I read it every day before I start work. And it really helps me. Especially the line “I am willing to make sure my files contain a part of me”. It is a constant reminder that I need to give my honesty to every read. Not anybody else’s. And why would I want to get in somebody else’s head anyway. That sounds waaaaay too scary! Especially if its anything like mine.
Craig Williams is a British Voice Over Actor based in Houston, Texas.