Note to self: “Self? Knock it off!”

A little Pep talk ain't never hurt nobody

Free photos of Smiley

Used by permission from AbsolutVision via Pixabay


I'd like a second helping of negativity please!

I hate you.  You’re nothing.  What a failure.  And you call yourself a voiceover artist?  You’re so untalented.  Why don’t you go get a job at McDonald’s?  You spent HOW much money on this?  What a colossal WASTE.  You should have gotten that voiceover job.  What’s WRONG with you?!?!?

There!  Feel better?  Of course you do.  This, after all, should sound very familiar to many of us who like to beat ourselves up and flagellate our own egos for the sake of accomplishing something, even if the accomplishment is negative.

We blame our failure on the nearest dog, and withhold their biscuit, even when they’re good, because our anger radiates outward and seeks a lightning rod.  That poor dog was wagging its tail until we cut it off in our fury.

So what happened?

Aren’t you always a winner?  What about the self-talk of winners?  Those hardy folk desirous of making something of themselves who never once have a shred of self-doubt, are completely secure in their winningishness (it’s a word), and stand triumphant on the dusty battlefield after having rushed out brazenly to  singlehandedly conquer thirty thousand foes using only a flyswatter and a can of Spam, their vanquished foes littering the field around them.



It’s time to get down…to the heart of the matter

Although Spam is actually pretty powerful, the truth is that:

  • Elon Musk never imagined he would have a mental breakdown, but he did and he bounced back.
  • After losing his fiancé, Abraham Lincoln was depressed for months. This tragic event didn’t prevent him from becoming president of the United States, even despite having run for office twice before that, and losing both times, as well as a failed business attempt.
  • Thomas Edison only had three months of formal education before he was asked to leave school because he couldn’t focus and was described as “addled” by the teacher. Despite being home schooled by his mother and being almost deaf as a result of scarlet fever, he still went on to become a prolific inventor and businessman, starting 14 different ventures, including General Electric.
  • Steven Spielberg was rejected by the University of Southern California School of Theater, Film, and Television TWICE, before becoming a student at California State University.
  • Michael Jordan didn’t make the varsity basketball team when he tried out for it in his sophomore year. He was considered too short at the time, only measuring 5’ 11”.

And here’s one that should resonate with us voiceover artists:

  • Walt Disney! His first attempt at a film company, Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists, was a short-lived venture in 1920 and his second try in 1922, Laugh-O-Gram Studio, went bankrupt within a year. He saw brief success from 1923 to 1927 distributing a series of cartoons based on Alice in Wonderland called Alice Comedies, on which he did the animation himself, but the series eventually lost popularity and fell into obscurity. In the next decade, Disney saw limited success with other series he created and sold, and was criticized while he worked on a full length animated feature, Snow White, people referring to it as “Disney’s folly”. In fact, the three year production of Snow White almost caused a bankruptcy, but in the end it was released in 1938 and became the year’s most successful movie, earning over $8 million.
  • The list goes on.

Can you imagine what went through these individuals’ heads during their bleakest moments?

I’m sure it was along the lines of “Hey you sexy beast.  You’re a winner.  Keep on truckin’, you picture-perfect model of humanity, you.” *mirror wink*

Hogwash.  Hootenanny.  Balderdash.  Twaddle.  Rubbish.

They were down in the dumps, and you know it; so don’t tell me otherwise.


Sticks and Stones

There’s that little voice in all of us that, when defeated, likes to crack its knuckles and sound the charge.  And oh boy does it go to town on our confidence.  Before long, we’re curled up in a corner and whispering “Find a happy place” to ourselves, thumb-in-mouth and rocking in desperation.

That voice that likes to cry out FAILURE when we see that the job we so desperately wanted went to someone….else.  The voice that likes to cackle hysterically at our misfortune when we thoroughly mess up the house remodel that we thought we could do…but it turns out we can’t; only other men can.  That little voice that points and laughs and berates us when we fail miserably to lose weight.  And the voice that calls us names and says we were nothing to begin with.

Whoever said that sticks and stones may break your bones but names will never hurt you…lied.  It’s an outright lie.  Sticks do break.  And names do hurt.  And we looooooooove to hurl accusations at ourselves when we fall short.

We fall all too often on our own swords when things go wrong.  Do any of these sound familiar?

  • “What am I doing wrong?”
  • “Why is everyone else succeeding except for me?”
  • “What happened to the good times? What did I do?”
  • “I’m nothing.”
  • “I’m a loser, baby…so why don’t you kill me?” (Thank you )

What we fail to understand is that we can’t be a winner without being a loser as well.  How can you always win 100% of the time?  What kind of cheap, shallow, immature and unaccomplished human would you be?  If you were only ever a winner, you would never experience growth and learning in defeat.  If you were only ever a loser, then you wouldn’t even be reading this blog, because you simply wouldn’t want to: it’s too positive for you, and who needs that?  Bleccchhh.

When we lose, or when we lose something, we incorrectly assume that we must have done something wrong because things aren’t going our way.  We grieve, mourn and wail, and we pound our fists in agony.  Thank God for funny cat videos to rescue and redirect us.

But is it possible that there’s that little thing called “balance” that’s calling the shots?  Is it possible that eventually, the pendulum swings back in your favor, and you feel good about yourself again when things are going right?

Faith is not faith unless it’s put to the test.

You have to have faith in order to win.  And you have to have faith in order to lose.

Where you and I get short-sighted, we have to believe that ultimately, it’s nothing we did or nothing we lack.  It’s simply because of any of the following reasons, take your pick:

  • We have different giftings
  • There’s a season for everything under the sun
  • Good times will come again
  • The sun shines and the rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous
  • They were available, and I wasn’t; or vice versa
  • Jupiter wasn't aligned with Pluto
  • It was a Tuesday

It simply doesn’t matter what the reason is.  What matters is dusting ourselves off.


Get outside and blow the stink off ya

My grandma used to say that to us when we were kids.  We need to pick ourselves up and shake off the dust.

When we’re dust-covered, we assume that we did, or worse, we are something wrong, in order to not have received what we hoped for.  And we call it failure, when really, all it is is a learning experience.  Why are we so inclined to beat ourselves up so badly and destroy our God-given identity: that of a success story?

I’m going to quote from Thibaut Meurisse here, because he says it better than I can:

Did you know that all events are inherently neutral?  Events that happen to you bear no meaning in themselves. You give them meaning only through your interpretation of those events. Additionally, you accept things about yourself because people told you to do so. What’s more, you identify with your name, your age, your religion, your political belief, or your occupation in a similar way. This attachment has consequences.  Attachment creates beliefs, and these beliefs lead you to experience certain emotions. For instance, you may become offended when people criticize your religion or attack your political principles. 

Your brain is designed for survival. When you think about it, the probability of you being born was extremely low. For this miracle to happen, all the generations before you had to survive long enough to procreate. In their quest for survival and procreation, they must have faced death hundreds or perhaps thousands of times. Fortunately, unlike your ancestors, you’re (probably) not facing death every day. In fact, in many parts of the world, life has never been safer. Yet, your survival mechanism hasn’t changed much. Your brain still scans your environment looking for potential threats. 

In many ways, some parts of your brain have become obsolete. While you may not be seconds away from being eaten by a predator, your brain still gives significantly more weight to negative events than to positive ones. 

Nowadays, being rejected often carries little or no consequence to your long-term survival. You could be hated by the entire world and still have a job, a roof and plenty of food on the table,  yet, your brain is still programmed to perceive rejection as a threat to your survival. 

This is why rejection can be so painful. While you know most rejections are no big deal, you nevertheless feel the emotional pain. If you listen to your mind, you may even create a whole drama around it. You may believe you aren’t worthy of love and dwell on a rejection for days or weeks. Worse still, you may become depressed as a result of this rejection. In fact, one single criticism can often outweigh hundreds of positive ones. That’s why a [voice talent] with fifty 5-star reviews, is likely to feel terrible when they receive a single 1-star review.  While they understand the 1-star review isn’t a threat to their survival, their brain doesn’t. It likely interprets the negative review as a threat to their ego, which triggers an emotional reaction. 

The fear of rejection can also lead you to over-dramatize events. If your boss criticized you at work, your brain may see the event as a threat and you now think, “What if I’m fired? What if I can’t find a job quickly enough and my wife leaves me? What about my kids? What if I can’t see them again?” While you are fortunate to have such an effective survival mechanism, it is also your responsibility to separate real threats from imaginary ones. If you don’t, you’ll experience unnecessary pain and worry that will negatively impact the quality of your life. To overcome this bias towards negativity, you must reprogram your mind.

One of a human being’s greatest powers is our ability to use our thoughts to shape our reality and interpret events in a more empowering way. [ emphasis mine ]


We’re really all just dogs

Thank you, Thibaut!

So let’s get back to shaping our reality. Let’s interpret events in a more empowering way.

Take it easy on yourself, will ya?  When the chips are down, when the ship has sailed, when you’re up a creek without a paddle, and the milk has spilled…….chill.

Cut yourself some slack, Jack.  Breathe, Heath.  Give it a break, Jake.  Stop it…uh…Moppit.

We’re all pretty much like dogs; we’re just missing tails - but if we weren't, they'd be between our legs.  We need to be stroked behind the ears, have our tummy rubbed, and get back up again after some kind affirmation.  We’re programmed to respond to positive stimuli with tail and ears up - or negative stimuli with tail and ears down.  It’s our desire to run and skip and catch a Frisbee.  But when we get barked at by ourselves because of:

  • chewing up the shoes (they’re actually pretty tasty) or
  • digging through the garbage (you may find a treat!) or
  • peeing on the floor (get that looked at if that’s you)

…then it’s time to re-evaluate.  This isn’t a Dear Abby blog.  And doggonit if I’m going to solve the world’s problems with a pat on your back and an “on your way, Soldier.” But sometimes we do need to remember Captain Ramsey from Crimson Tide when he said “All I ask is that you keep up with me. If you can't, then that strange sensation you'll be feeling in the seat of your pants will be my boot in your ass!”  Amen, Cap’n.

That’s why this blog exists.  I consider myself a bit of a cheerleader.  Like my pom-poms?  They’re made from unicorn hair - and my outfit is straight from glitter and sunshine.  I seek to inspire, because we all need that…including myself.  I am the biggest sinner when it comes to negative self-talk, and I need to get that boot out of my ass and keep up with Captain Ramsey.

Don’t take my word for it.  Start doing it.  And be specific with your positive self-talk.  The more specific you are, the better the results you get.  In one study, basketball players were divided into two groups.  Some of them used positive self-talk using the word “relax” while others used positive self-talk using the word “fast”.  Then their shooting ability was studied. Those who used the work “relax” scored far better than those who used the word “fast”. “Relax” implies the player will be better able to focus on his task and control the shot better.  If you use self-talk that focuses on a desired feeling, performance improves more than just focusing on other positive statements.

So.  If you’re barking at yourself too much, being kicked and snarling in a corner, perhaps its time to get out and run.  Decide to get that boot of your ass as well.  Collarless, leashless, full-tilt running to catch that frisbee and feel good again.  Your health and your quality of life depend on it.  Tell yourself: “Self?  Knock it off!”  And start doing some positive self-talk again.  Things like:

  • “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggonit, people like me.” What the heck, it worked for Stuart Smalley.
  • “I can succeed at several things”
  • “I have giftings that are unique to me, and I use them well”
  • “I gave it my best shot, and that’s the best I can do”
  • “I’m a valuable contributor to my family, to society, to my nation, and the world.”
  • “More people appreciate me than I know.”
  • “Tomorrow is a new day.”
  • “I can chalk this up to a learning experience.”
  • “You got this.”
  • “It’s a Wednesday now, not a Tuesday.”

There.  See?  That wasn’t so hard.  Here.  Have a biscuit.  Good dog.


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Joshua Alexander
Seattle Voice Actor & Voiceover Talent for hire

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4 thoughts on “Note to self: “Self? Knock it off!””

  1. I get down on myself, my lack of auditions & gigs… and life in general at least once a week. BUT I continue to try. I dont think its in my nature to quit, especially at voice acting.
    I try to remember…NEVER GIVE UP.
    NEVER SURRENDER! (Yes, I love Galaxy Quest).
    Thank you Josh, for this great blog.

  2. Hey Josh!

    I first want to say thank you! I have always had self doubt, but getting into acting classes has helped me! I am taking classes and trying to keep myself centered with positive thoughts. I realized that after I got a call back on an audition I did, I ended up thinking to myself a few times, oh man… no my voice doesn’t fit… No, I am not going to get this etc. I since then have essentially just changed my mindset on that… to this… “What I am auditioning for is not my original work, it is someone else’s. If I am not right, then I am not right, and that’s okay. I will be right… somewhere else!” This has really shifted my emotions and relieved me! It’s such a burdened to care too much, while caring is good, it shouldn’t be harmful! We are our worst critics that’s for sure! Thank You for this blog… it came RIGHT when I needed it. How weird!?

    1. Heather thank you SO much for reading my blog and for commenting. I totally know what you mean! It’s always a matter of SELECTION; not rejection. They simply selected someone else. Good for you on recognizing that. And glad it was so well timed – may it bless you! Thanks for subscribing and commenting.

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