We often feel like we aren’t good enough unless we sound like a certain pop singer, or look like a certain movie actor, or someone else at school, the guy at the bus stop, the girl who gets your latte in the morning, or really anyone other than ourselves. Now, imitation is not a bad thing- it’s the main way we learn, even from the time we are tiny babies. But once we are a bit older, it’s time to explore what you have that is unique in all the world- which is just about everything. No one, in the history of the world, and no one in the vast future of the universe, has ever had nor will ever have what you have. Even if you are an identical twin, there are characteristics that make you an absolute individual. No one else has your voice, your ideas, your look, your movement pattern. And, possibly even more important, you can’t have anyone else’s. Unless you are brilliant at impressions of other and plan to make a career out of being a celebrity impersonator (and some do, there’s nothing to be ashamed of there), you need to do some serious exploration AND ACCEPTANCE of what makes you- you.

Look in the mirror. It’s OK, nothing bad will happen to you. At first, don’t look at the flaws, even though I know that’s where your eye goes first. It’s the same for most of us, we’re all ashamed of parts of ourselves. But for just a few minutes, look at the good stuff. Decide what you like about how you look. I challenge you to list ten features that you like about yourself- it can be a physical characteristic like your eyes or hair, it can be how you move, your height, your smile, how you wear clothes. Ten. Then write them down so you won’t forget them later. We’ll come back to those in a minute.

Now the flaws. This one is easier, right? Find ten things that you are disappointed in about your appearance. Maybe it’s your weight, your skin, your nose, your bra size. Nothing is trivial, it’s all important to you. Ten. Then from those ten, subtract any of them that you cannot change. Unless your  family is way wealthy AND is willing  to give you plastic surgery for your birthday, your nose is probably your nose.  If you want to change your hair color, or lose weight, those things are possible. leave them in.

Now, of the things you don’t like that you could change, decide if the effort to change them is worth it, or if there is a way you can be OK with those things. If you want to try to change them, go for it. If not, train yourself to like them. At least to be able to say, “I have a big nose. That’s OK, it’s part of what makes me me.”

Those ten good things you wrote down? Told you we’d come back to them. Tape them to your mirror or in a drawer or something so you will see and read them every day. THIS WILL NOT MAKE YOU CONCEITED. No worries there. There is a huge difference between appreciating your own good points and thinking that those good points make you somehow better than others. Not so. They just make you you, which is the whole point.

And here’s the really interesting part of all this: The people who see you every day don’t notice nearly as much of the “flaws” as you do. They see you. That’s why when you make yourself crazy to lose ten pounds and no one comments on it, it’s because they didn’t see the ten pounds to begin with, so they don’t miss them. And I can tell you from a lot of experience that when I see young people audition who are painfully aware of the “bad stuff” and are trying hard  to hide of minimize the flaws end up showcasing them. You end up upstaged by the very things you ate trying to hide. Find a way to be OK with exactly who you are and what you look and sound like. Trying to imitate other singers just points out how far away from their sound you are, when singing as yourself is a whole unique sound, not competing with anyone. Confidence and self-acceptance is extremely attractive,  both onstage and off.

People who do see and comment on your flaws are jealous of the good parts of you, and are jerks that you don’t want anything to do with anyway, so blow them off. They have the same confidence problems as you do, probably worse, because the only way they can feel better is to make someone else feel bad. Ugh. Pity them, it’s a horrible way to feel all the time.

Here’s something else that you won’t believe unless you trust me and try to do this. Once you have  1) been able to enjoy your best features; 2) accept the parts of yourself that you may not like but can’t change; and 3) changed whatever you have decided to change, you are going to discover just how much of your daily energy has been going into fretting about your appearance, voice, walk, whatever. You will feel lighter and brighter, and you’ll be able to see and hear through that fog of self-doubt enough to actually make a huge difference on the stage.

You do you. You’re the only one who can.

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