Jennifer is not the easiest student. She’s not someone who seeks change, so change is hard. Even change she’s working for. But she’s a music-theater girl who wants to sing like Idina Menzel, and she’s dedicated. This week she got past her B-flat break and didn’t even know it. It was very exciting. Well…exciting to me, anyway. Jennifer just gave me a tepid smile as I enthusiastically wagged my tail.
Often one of my voice students will have a breakthrough. Their dedication will pay off and they’ll achieve a significant level of freedom with their voice. They’ll master a skill, or just find that next step. It can unfold over a few weeks or appear over a few minutes. Like all voice teachers, I get very excited when this happens. My students almost never do. In fact, if they acknowledge their accomplishment at all, they often try to give me the credit.
The more powerful you feel, the more victories you will claim. It’s a cycle that's especially important for those in the performing arts.
A voice student will work for and invest in her own improvement and accomplishment, and then when she crosses the threshold that signifies that accomplishment is hers, she won’t claim the thing she’s earned.
Reflected in their experience, I see that I do the same thing, and always have. I don’t know when or why I learned not to claim my accomplishments, but I know I’m in good company. You probably do it, too.
Until recently, I’ve lived with the assumption that at some point I would Arrive and Be A Success. Because this is an assumption, it has controlled me without lending itself to being questioned or examined. It’s kept me in a place of discounting all the little milestones that have made up my life.
I like to think that there are people who don’t have this problem; people who can experience the small accomplishments in the broad scope of their life. But I know there are an awful lot of people, like my students and me, who need to give up the idea that the daily successes don’t count.
We need to count the fact that we finished the program, our singing has improved, we handled an issue at work diplomatically, we know our audition went well, we’ve stayed committed to someone who’s ill, we finished making the quilt or painting the room, we started guitar lessons, we’ve mastered pronouncing the “th” sound, or took one step toward our goal.
We also need to join the celebration of those successes that are right out there for everyone to see. The promotion, getting cast in the show, the diploma, adopting the rescue, being in the showcase. We need to stop saying, “it was nothing,” and instead say, “thank you”. We need to receive the gift of recognition. Then we need to give that gift to ourselves.
These successes are the stuff of life. To discount them is to discount your own journey. Counting them is feeling your own life and your own power. The more powerful you feel, the more victories you will claim. It’s a cycle that's especially important for those in the performing arts. When people say "Great job"! practice saying, "Thanks"!