In a recent post Academy Award interview with ABC News’ Amy Robach, Oscar winner, Viola Davis said, “I still feel like I am going to wake up and everybody is going to see the hack I am.”
Similarly, in 2015 the actress Emma Watson said in an interview with Vogue UK, “When I receive recognition for my acting, I feel incredibly uncomfortable. I tend to turn in on myself, I feel like an imposter.”
Both actresses go on to speak about their ability to successfully begin to confront this emotional challenge. They are clearly not alone in feeling like they are going to be ‘found out’. One study estimates that 70% of us will experience at least one episode of what is described as ‘imposter syndrome’ in our lifetime.
Imposter literally means a person who pretends to be someone else in order to deceive others, especially for fraudulent gain. Akin to that is an impersonator with definitions such as pretender, imitator, trickster, fake, and fraud …
These two fine actresses are certainly not fraudulent. They have earned their well-deserved praise. However, neither Ms. Davis nor Ms. Watson have always felt comfortable hearing it, believing it or receiving their respective recognition.
Acting is a craft where one learns how to pretend-but not to be an imposter. The goal is not to merely appear to be authentic, but to actually embody the integrity of the character they are portraying.
I am a communication strategist and the creator of the Vocal Awareness Method whose mandate is Empowerment Through Voice. To be empowered vocally requires integrity and authenticity in all our communication.
At this writing I have just begun my 52nd year of this trademarked work. Over the years I have had the privilege of teaching Champions in virtually every sport, noted performers, Chairmen /CEOs of global corporations, et al. Something I say to an athlete in a first lesson is “you brought the talent to your sport but someone actually taught you every single thing you do.” Just as athletes have been taught, actors study and learn a craft; many business leaders go to business school. I am a trained classical singer and studied my art for many years. The point is, in all these disciplines, we are taught ‘how to do it’. However,
Who teaches us to be ourselves?
Who teaches us to claim our greatness?
As we saw in Ms Davis’ interview, even great professional actors can have challenges claiming their greatness when ‘portraying’ themselves.
At the next NFL Induction Ceremony in Canton, Ohio, on August 4th and 5th, my 16th student will be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. Vocal Awareness students have won Tonys, Emmys, Academy Awards, etc. For any of them to acknowledge their accomplishment is not a boast or arrogance—it is the truth—they are exceptional at what they do. They have significant ability honed over years of dedicated commitment.
For most of us, this is not our life. Throughout our lives, subliminally or directly, the implied message is often ‘claiming who we are, acknowledging ourselves and our accomplishments great or small is boastful/arrogant’. Messages delivered, “Don’t act like that. What will people think? You shouldn’t say that. You sound arrogant.”
I trained Arnold Schwarzenegger for many years. When at the peak of his physical prowess, someone might have asked him, “What do you think of your body?” For him to state the obvious was a truth. For him to deflect it would be a lie. Why should it be any different for us when recognizing our own accomplishments to be proud of ourselves? The question is rhetorical. It should never be.
In my work, Vocal Awareness, I have reframed the word ‘hubris’ which literally means overbearing pride or presumption toward the gods. In addition, as a society we recognize the importance of self-esteem which means to respect and honor our uniqueness.
In Vocal Awareness our goal is to reflect our intrinsic right to be ourselves without approbation. It is not arrogant to do so.
Continuing, a number of years ago, I coined the phrase ‘The Human Achievement Movement’, extrapolated from George Leonard’s Human Potential Movement. The word ‘potential’ means capable of being but not yet in existence. Achieve means to perform successfully. In Vocal Awareness I teach us to respect that we all have the ability ‘to perform successfully,’ but we have to do the work to achieve.
Legendary Dodger Manager, the nonagenarian Tommy Lasorda recently said to a rookie during his at bat, “Talent you use is developed. Talent you don’t use is wasted.” Once you have recognized what your talent is—use it. In Vocal Awareness I add, “and do not be afraid to claim it”.
In closing, I teach that the two greatest fears each of us confronts is fear of abandonment and fear of claiming our greatness. Learning to acknowledge and overcome these fears is requisite and fundamental to achieving self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-fulfillment.
Quoting from my most recent book, Vocal Leadership: 7 Minutes A Day To Communication Mastery, “To achieve we must leap—The humility to see things as they are and the audacity to believe [we] can make them different.” If you do, you will not be an imposter. If you do not, you just may be.
Be audacious! Claim your authentic Self!
NOTE: This post was featured on Huffington Post: