Jumping the Hurdle of Self Doubt

PHOTO CREDIT: David Mark (www.pixabay.com)

Self-doubt is a universal emotional state.  It’s something everyone feels at one point or another in their life; and sometimes, it plagues us daily.  But it doesn’t have to.  Would it surprise you to know that there are pros and cons to self-doubt?   Some think it’s a survival skill that makes us more resilient and helps us do better.

PROs:  Self-doubt can motivate you to be more prepared at the start of a project.  The uncertainty that comes with self-doubt can keep us in the listening mode, absorbing all the tips and details of a discussion that we can turn over into a well-developed product, project or service.  It helps keep us humble.  The need to re-examine a completed job – to make sure it’s right – opens our mind to options and possibilities. 

CONs:  Self-doubt can get out of our control.  It can stop us in our tracks or even prevent us from moving on to the next step or even trying at all.  That’s a problem.

In a recent survey, some very brave Audiobook Narrators shared some of the self-doubts they felt when they first started out as Narrator.  Here are their thoughts and some tips on overcoming self-doubt with you.

“Am I doing this right?  I don’t seem to ever like the way I sound?” 

First of all – remember – if you were selected by the Author to voice their novel, your voice is perfect.  They’ve already listened to your audition and liked the way you sound – or they wouldn’t have selected you.

Second, I’d like to discuss why you may not like the way you sound.  This is a very, very common complaint of all new voiceover talents and on air broadcasters when they first start.  When you listen to someone else speak, you are hearing their voice come to you through your outer ear. When you speak, you are hearing yourself through your outer ear and from inside your body as the vibrations form sound move through an acoustical chamber (your skull) with a unique resonance no one else can hear.  This is better than stereo – this is 3D hearing!

So let me ask… Do people talk to you?  Do they enjoy talking to you?  Then there’s not really a problem. My advice is to keep going.  And keep listening to your audio through headphones as you record and edit.  Soon you will become accustomed to the “new” 2D “outside” sound of your voice. 

“I find myself doing this [insert word, sentence, phrase, or paragraph] over and over again.  What’s wrong with me?”

Absolutely nothing is wrong with you.  None us can do flawless reads all the time.  We all get tongue-tied.  Sometimes on sibilance (lots of “s” sounds).  Sometimes on alliterations (repeated sounds).  Very often on punctuation trip-ups.  And sometimes – just because.  I just hit one the other day that took me 12 tries to get through and it was one word!  It was a company name and I don’t want any bad mojo falling to them so I won’t give you their name; but I will say it was a matter of tripping over the word because of how it is shaped in the mouth.  It was a conjoined word – two words put together to form one new word.  The first half ended in a “th” sound and the last half started with an “pf” sound.  I couldn’t wrap my tongue around the “th-pf” sound without a hesitation between the halves.  My dog thought I was trying to invent a new way to whistle as I walked around the house practicing “th-pf” over and over again until I could do it.

When a word, sentence, phrase or paragraph trips you, mark the error, jump back to the beginning of the sentence and go again.  Listen to how the word is pronounced (www.pronounce.com) and repeat it until it sounds fluid in your mind and then on your tongue.  Do a warm-up of tongue twisters to loosen up your mouth and lean in to the articulation.  And my favorite tip – go back and read the last few sentences that lead up to the stumble in an outrageous, wacky character voice.  It works. And it makes me laugh. It kicks your mind out of frustration mode into something light…relaxed… even silly.  And that can make it easier. 

“I know I shouldn’t be the one to judge how it sounds because I’m too self-judgmental but I worry about what kind of experience the Listener will have.”

This is a big one.  And the hard truth of it is  – not every listener will enjoy your performance.  And that may or may not have anything to do with you.

Best advice – be prepared.  Preparing before recording is the best way to overcome uncertainly.  Have you read the entire manuscript?  What’s the overall tone?  Are any of the emotions in the book going to give you pause?  I’m serious about asking this because I’ve learned that I can’t scream.  I just don’t ever do it.  In real life.  On stage. Or in the booth.  My flight-fight-panic response is solidly in fight and I do it silently.  I will never be able to narrative horror.  I know my limitations.

Do you have a list on words, place names, etc., for which you need to clarify pronunciation?  Record the word and then the sentence that the word is in and send it to the Author/Rights Holder to get their approval or clarification on the pronunciation. Also, think about place names when you put this list together.  I had a fix come through in the final review of an audiobook when the Author told me that regionally, the town of Hurricane, Utah, is pronounced “Her-kin” and not “hur-uh-kein.”  Neither I nor my Proofer had any clue.

If there is a tricky character or a scene that you think could go in a few different directions, ask the Author/right holder what they have in mind for that scene.  Getting their guidance up builds confidence – for you both!  It shows you’re dedicated to the audiobook’s success and being very conscientious about your work.

Do anything you can to move forward.  Self-doubt is only a problem when it causes you to stop moving.  Lean in.  Lean so far forward you’re gonna fall over!  Instinct will have you putting a foot out to catch yourself. 

Remember – if the Author/Right Holder love it, your job is well done and the Universe will take care of the rest.

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