A few weeks ago, I wrote about a question I am often asked: What keeps talented singers stuck and struggling?
Today, I have another actionable tip for you as we continue that conversation.
Have you ever sat down and really paid attention to what your inner voice says to you? For a lot of us, that voice is pretty damn harsh. It loves to criticize. It constantly tells us how much we are lacking, reminds us of all the ways it thinks we are bad or wrong, berates us for doing too little or too much, and is rarely satisfied.
The thing is, when you hear that critical voice, it’s not you—it’s not the voice of your true self. It’s the voice of your ego, otherwise known as your inner-critic. The voice of the true self so often gets drowned out by the ego/inner-critic that at times, the inner-critic is the only voice we hear. But it’s not the only voice that’s there.
Learning how to detach from your inner-critic and connect to the voice of your true self can be game-changing for improving your singing and getting you unstuck.
I know you’re thinking, “Oh Arden, here you go again with the woo-woo stuff,” but hear me out. I’ve helped a ton of singers dramatically improve their singing by helping them shift how they relate to themselves. In my experience, this is a huge part of what makes a successful singer because it actually affects your vocal technique.
So many of us artists and creative types experience a very loud, often very mean inner critic. When we allow the inner critic to dominate our thoughts, perceptions, and experiences, our ability to sing and perform at the highest level is greatly impacted.
When our inner critic looms large, we go forward in our singing (and in the world) from a place of fear and anxiety, both of which create physical tension that prevents us from efficiently using our technique and when that happens, we don’t sing very well. It’s pretty simple. As singers, we need to be able to let go and trust our support and technique. How can we possibly do that with this loud, mean inner critic keeping us in fear and anxiety all the time?
A wonderful meditation and mindfulness teacher in Los Angeles named Heather Prete teaches a great technique for keeping your inner-critic in check. When you hear that critical voice, start by naming it so you know that it’s not you. “Ah, there goes my inner critic again.” Detach from it, laugh at it, then return to the present, your breathing, and the feel of your body.
Odds are whatever the inner-critic was yammering about isn’t taking place in the present moment. It’s usually shaming you about the past or worrying about the future. The inner critic doesn’t live in the present moment but the true self does. Every time you detach from your inner-critic, you reconnect with your true self. In this way, your true self steps in and witnesses the ego as something separate. When that happens, all of its criticism and fear-mongering takes on much less significance and its voice stops being so loud.
Use these steps the next time you notice your inner critic flaring up:
- Name the voice as your inner-critic.
- Detach from it.
- Address it. Laugh at it!
- Return to the present moment. (I like to name five objects I see and their color to bring me back.)
- Connect to your breathing, saying to yourself, “I am breathing in” as you inhale, and “I am breathing out” as you exhale.
- Connect to the feel of your body, the feeling of the air and the clothes on your skin, the movement of your pulse and heartbeat, and any other physical sensation you notice.
- Go on with your day. You have successfully checked your inner critic!
Detaching from our inner-critic allows us to better trust our vocal technique and to flow with the possibilities of the present moment in our singing without the need to tense, over-control, force, or manipulate.
Arden Kaywin is a voice teacher in Los Angeles pioneering work with singers in a four-month intensive training that uses mindfulness to eradicate tension and up-level singing technique.
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and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.