This has been an interesting week for me, because I was fortunate enough to have been given the opportunity to help four different actors with their respective career issues. In each of these cases, the questions they asked were astounding, unusual and extraordinarily valuable.
And it made me realize just how valuable the answers really were.
So…what were these questions? And what were the answers?
Now, I get asked an awful lot of questions about acting, both on-mic and on-camera, the art, the commerce, the science…the whole business. Truth is, I love answering all of them.
And far and away, the most common type of question I get asked deals with facts: “Which of these mics should I use?” or “What editing software is best?” or “What file format should my auditions be in?”
(The number one question I get? How to attach a certain awesome mic to a standard mic stand. I can’t even.)
I can usually answer these types of questions with a few words, or with a link to an article I’ve written. And in just a few seconds, the questioner can be off, going about his or her VO business.
But I think that the other type of question I get is far more important, and far more useful to our professional (and personal lives). And they are asked rarely, if at all, especially by performers who are struggling. That’s why this past week was so amazing.
Because the questions I got weren’t about facts, they were about beliefs.
In particular, limiting beliefs.
The beliefs that hold us back
What is a limiting belief? It’s basically any belief that stops you cold from being productive, taking actionable steps, achieving the kind of success you want, earning more money, feeling more accomplished, more satisfied or more happy in your life.
“I’m too old to be an actor.”
“I’m tech illiterate.”
“All the big stars have all the high-paying jobs sewn up.”
“I hate auditioning, because I never book anything.”
Any of these ring a bell?
And these limiting beliefs are sometimes really difficult to recognize, because they usually sound pretty logical, they’re often shared by others, and the payoff you get for believing them can be comforting and make you feel safe.
And sometimes, they’re hidden in other questions. When someone asks me, “What model microphone do you use?”, the hidden limiting belief often is “I can only be successful if I get the mic that David uses.”
(I hate to break it to you, but the mike I use, and am successful with, is roundly panned by a lot of “experts.”)
But when you are able see a limiting belief for what it is, it’s a golden opportunity to make a change for the better. And I have to tell you…those are the queries, the ones about what people believe, that really excite me.
Because the results of exchanging a limiting belief, one that stymies you, for an enabling belief, one that serves you, are usually pretty spectacular.
Destroying Limiting Beliefs: The Process
I love the process of listening to an artist talk about the struggles they have, hearing and identifying the limiting belief that contributes to that struggle, and helping them find a replacement.
Here’s an example of a limiting belief I’ve heard a thousand times, and that I’ve written about before:
“I need to remain pure with my artistic choices, and not worry about the money. If I consider the ‘filthy lucre’, it will sully me as an artist.”
Now, you may be thinking “Wha? I love paid work!” But there are plenty of people who are stuck on the idea that artists are expected to struggle financially. It’s part of being an artist.
(And for some, it’s actually something to be proud of. They love talking about the ramen they eat, the couches they surf and the survival jobs they hate.)
But there’s an issue. Unlike answering fact-based questions with a simple solution, bringing a limiting belief out into the light, destroying it and replacing it with an enabling belief is a longer, more involved process.
First, you need to admit that the belief you hold is, in fact, a limiting one. (Some people just don’t want to think they’ve been shooting themselves in the foot all these years.)
Second, you need to examine how you came to have this belief, and why it’s so real for you. (Who set that example? What authority instilled this belief? What actual proof do you have that it’s true?)
Third, you need to identify the payoffs you get from that belief. (Do you feel safe and secure when you believe it? Do you rest easy knowing your belief will stop you from being ridiculed or rejected?)
Fourth, you acknowledge it, and decide to change it. Once you do that, and you decide you want a better option, you create a replacement. An enabling belief. One that supports you.
Example: instead of “I’m too old to be an actor,” what about “Age is just a number. They need me too.” Sure, they need young characters, but they need wise, experienced older characters, too. Just watch television or go to the movies, and actually inventory the ages of the actors and the characters they play.
Fifth, you look at the payoffs you can expect from this new, enabling belief, and be ready to get excited: the payoffs of an enabling belief are far more satisfying, productive and profitable than the safety of pulling the covers over your head with that old limiting belief.
Sixth, and finally, you create and actually execute actionable steps to put this new, enabling belief into action, modifying your belief system for the better. This is the fun part. This is the celebration. This is shifting to another gear and another, higher, level.
It’s. not. easy.
It’s easy to say, “Replace your limiting beliefs with enabling beliefs.” But that’s not all I’m saying. I know how hard it is to let go of familiar, comfortable thoughts, and stretch into a new rule or two that requires admitting what’s working and what’s not working.
But if you can do that, you can work toward being fully realized, more passionate and at ease with your work and being an artist, and understanding the “why” in Mark Twain’s quote.
That’s why I love being a coach. I love helping students and clients explore that entire process. If not me, find someone you trust, someone that understands the artist in you, that wants your success, to help you explore this process and see if you can’t make things better.
What about you?
So…what limiting beliefs do you think you might be holding on to? I’d love to create a massive list in the comments below, so if you have more than one, post away. I’ve gotten together a list of over 150 that I’ve heard (and some of which I’ve, unfortunately, believed) over the years, and I’d love to figure out a way to help everyone with this process.
I think the end result is better than simply knowing which mic to use, don’t you think?
Hope this helps.
PS…as I was writing this, I started to think about something kind of cool that I can do that might be useful to you, and a lot of other people, to help them with this process. Let me continue to think about it, to consult with the coaches, and I’ll keep you posted.
UPDATE: I’ve come up with something big. You should check it out here.
Upper limit issues – very familiar with this topic. I suggest checking out a book recommended to me and many other actors on their journey, “The Big Leap” by Gay Hendricks. I’m reading it now and even the first few chapters, this book is incredibly relevant.
Thanks for that, Victoria…care to be really vulnerable for a few moments and let us all know what limiting beliefs you’re dealing with (or have dealt with…and what you replaced them with)?
I think as actors, we know there is a ton of competition and a lot of casting decisions depend on so many factors that are well beyond our control. Letting GO of an audition/callback is necessary -especially if I allow ageism, or “my hair isn’t the right color” or “I’m not ever going to get called back for that because (xyz)…”. It serves zero purpose. Getting to the “I am enough” stage of my life didn’t happen until my 40’s… it’s when I finally realized that, “Hey! I’ve got this, no matter what happens.” And of course, I STILL have to remind myself that every once in awhile… I can’t be perfect at everything, I’m not always going to be chosen (for whatever project I had my heart set on) and to just be ME. No one else is ME. I will be hired for ME and what I bring to the table because THAT **IS** enough. It’s coming to terms with who you are and ALLOWING yourself to be in a good space.
I’ve taken the steps needed to make sure that I am up-to-date with technology, the tools and the training in my field (acting, voiceover, TV/film production) – and pursue the chosen career path in front of me because I’m genuinely passionate about it. It’s enough. It really, really is. (Soapbox done… and…. scene.)
Great article David. Nice to hear your heart for your clients and your craft.
Two limiting beliefs come to mind that I deal with. The first: I will never understand the technical side of production well enough to keep up with the industry. (This I struggle with even after having success, its crazy, but there you go.)
And the second; because I work full time, it would be foolish to join sites like voices123. I wont have enough time to meet demands from clients at all, so dont even take that step. Right now I am operating in a safe, manageable space even though I want to branch out and do more. My fear is that I will book work I cannot fulfill due to work conflicts, so I play it “safe”.
As I think about these two limiting beliefs they seem weaker for having typed them out here. But, I am open to any feedback or advice.
Thanks again David. Certainly working with you in that one on one session has helped with both of these immensely.
Just “naming and shaming” them helps, right? So…I’ve been giving the idea I had while writing this post more thought, and with a couple of tweaks, I think it can be really, really simple, and really, really powerful. Stay tuned.
Agreed. A good step in facing down the giants, as it were. Staying tuned and looking forward to hearing more of what you’re working on.
Playing it “safe” Joseph. Your post really spoke to me there, too. I hear you! Wow! That’s a good one… Can’t wait to see what David comes up with next.
UPDATE: I’ve come up with something big. You should check it out here.
UPDATE: I’ve come up with something big. You should check it out here.
Thanks David. This post was not only valuable for me, but timely.
The limiting belief I struggle with THE MOST: “I am not enough.” Good enough, talented enough, skilled enough, experienced enough, pretty enough, skinny enough, relaxed enough…just…not enough. I’m aware of how detrimental this belief is to me, yet at the same time I’ve yet to kick the belief to the curb. And now I know exactly why: “Do you feel safe and secure when you believe it? Do you rest easy knowing your belief will stop you from being ridiculed or rejected?” YES! I beat myself up before someone else might, because that seems much more comfortable.
Today, I had a very powerful experience around this. I was at an audition for a great role I loved preparing for, and I was sitting in the waiting room feeling really insecure. Voices were coming up in my head telling me all about why I wasn’t good enough to book the role. In the past, I either believed the voices, or I pushed them away – tried but failed to deny them. But today…I just observed them. I was just like, “oh, huh. I’m thinking these things. Interesting.” And I didn’t fight them, and I didn’t buy into them. I just noticed them. And because of that, I was able to share myself more powerfully and authentically in the audition room than I ever have before.
Next step: admit to myself how limiting this belief has been…and ask whether I’m willing to, once and for all, change it.
Thank you so much, Sarah. And break a leg…
Greetings, David. This is great stuff, IMHO. You have hit multitudinous nails on the head with your breakdown and not a one I have not encountered at one time or another, and because of the way I decided to get into VO, I’ve learned by experience.
Of course I already had a self-made career when I started this VO thing 19 years ago, and luckily was taught and/or mentored by successful peeps. This line of info you present cuts right to the core, and offers a way to move forward.
Crikey….sounds like a promo ad. Yuck. But you know I’m straight up and can’t stand BS. The more often you stand up at a Voices Anonymous meetup and offer your opinion, the better we are. Many thanks, brotha’.
I so appreciate your take on this, Bob. And I truly feel like the Voices Anonymous meetup is one of the highlights of each month. I think I’ll have this idea I’ve been thinking about more formalized on Thursday and would love to mention it briefly, in service of people there breaking down their own limiting beliefs and replacing them with enabling ones. See you then!
I’m not good enough.
I’m good enough – actually I’m great, but I’ll never be recognized.
My time has come and gone.
I’ll never work like I did when I was in my 20’s and I was valued as a sweet young thing.
I never really did any valuable work.
I can’t make those interesting sharp choices that real character actors make.
My voice just does what it wants sometimes. I can’t get control over it.
I always sound so flat – no expression.
I don’t have the perseverance to finish a large job like a book by myself.
I’m too disorganized; it stops me from doing what I want.
I’ll never start – let alone finish – executing all the unique, fun ideas I have for creating my own work.
People today would think that what I think of as a fresh, unique idea is stale and derivative.
People my age have either made it or not.
I don’t have the body of work to show so people will want to cast me.
I look too young.
I look too old.
I don’t have that cute charactery old person’s look.
I look too pretty/ too elegant.
I don’t have a movie star’s facial structure.
I never had a really good figure.
I could get a social media following if I understood Instagram.
I could get a social media following and become an “influencer” if I weren’t so lazy.
I could never get a social media following. No one is interested in me.
Vulnerable enough for you?
I thought it would feel good to get these all out there, but I don’t think it does.
Wow. This is awesome. Thank you for that…and rest assured that you’re completely normal: that it’s likely not to feel good until you do the work to replace those limiting beliefs with enabling beliefs.
Voices Anonymous? Is that real or a joke?
My limiting beliefs about VO.
Ones I know are crazy but still bother me.
I am too short.
I am too fat.
I am too old.
I have too many bad hair days.
Ones that may be crazy but still sound logical to me.
I will never be tech savey enough.
I have a nice voice but I sound BOR-ING.
I have a nice voice but not versatile enough.
I have a nice voice but not in perfect control of it.
I am not Mel Blanc.
I am not Barbara Rosenblat.
I am not Jody Foster.
I am not Hank Azara.
I am not James Earl Jones.
I am not hip enough.
I can’t sing.
I have a mid west accent.
I wear a hearing aid.
I procrastinate too much, not good at follow through.
I am not a good at marketing.
I don’t “smooze” well.
I will never understand social media.
I hate cold calling.
If I got a lot of work, I would not have the time.
If I win an audition I may not be able to sustain the performance in the project.
Can’t always figure out the best style, delivery, interpretation for the role.
Not techy enough or imaginative enough to make my own material and work.
Did I mention I hate marketing?
If I sat here long enough I would probably come up with others.
Thanks for letting us know others have these beliefs also.
Voices Anonymous is very real. It’s the name of a meetup here in LA, and a Facebook group you can join:
This article and all the responses are just awe inspiring. When I used to hear people use cliches like DREAM BIG and SHOOT FOR THE STARS!, I really just wanted to barf. I think that was my limiting belief wrenching at my gut. It said “don’t dream too big because you don’t want to look like a fool when you fail or quit or change your mind about wanting to accomplish ______.” I am slowly learning by taking leaps, listening to the wisdom of others and learning, learning, learning, to fear not. When I signed up to be a VO2GoGo Pro, I never imagined that I would be participating in a human growth and development course as well. As we say in New Orleans, we got a bit of lagniappe !
And this is me, blowing beignet sugar all over you! GOOD FOR YOU!!
I kept this web page open until I could read it through a third time. Now I’ve done that and put all 6 steps in a notebook with plenty of blank pages behind it, so I can work on them. I can think of some limiting beliefs, but I’m not at the core ones yet.
Glad you found a way to work it for yourself! Those who join me for Believe 2018 (starts next Friday, 8/31 – just $90 – details here) will get a daily PDF file they can download, customized to that day’s targeted limiting belief, with spaces to work through all the (8, actually) steps we’ll go through in each session.