The Road to the Authentic You
By Rudy Gaskins
June 18, 2021
“Authenticity” has resurfaced as a buzzword in voice acting. Fads and trends may come and go, but authenticity will no doubt continue to reemerge throughout time because it is the most compelling aspect of human communication, no matter the career or life endeavor. How it’s showing up in voice acting is that it’s being said aloud as a form of direction, written into performance descriptions, and taught as a part of delivering a successful voice acting performance. Traditional acting training has always taught the concept of authenticity, using any number of terms (real, honest, genuine, unpretentious), but it’s not so much that it’s been taught as much as instilled through trial by fire. The audience’s unrelenting demand for truth is what determines the success of the voice actor’s authenticity. However, without the red-hot scrutiny of a live audience, other actors, and directors compelling them to find authenticity in their performance, how does the voice actor locate that authenticity?
This is one of the reasons the study of traditional acting is vital to voice actors. Unlike stage and screen actors, voice actors train and work in a vacuum. How can voice actors develop the high degree of authenticity that is commonplace among the great actors? Traditional acting training is a great way to start, but it is not the be-all and end-all for developing this prized quality. This becomes clear when we think of authenticity not as an end in and of itself, but as a symptom of self-awareness. Telling a person to be authentic is not actionable direction. It’s like telling them to feign truthfulness. On the other hand, encouraging someone to be self-aware opens up all kinds of titillating ideas, and one can begin to imagine how such an inquiry might be conducted.
The more self-aware you are, the more naturally you will connect with, express, and appreciate who you are. With practice and self-compassion, you will learn to love who you are, and to love the potential for who you can become. Mind you, there are situations where we make fight or flight choices that seem to betray our sense of self, but those moments reveal our truth as well. The truth is not always comfortable. For example, most people, voice actors included, have experienced alarm upon hearing the sound of their recorded voice, as compared to the way they hear themselves in their own heads. Some never get over it. In the same way, those who seek self-awareness can be alarmed by a reflection of their inner truth that is equally disconcerting. Self-awareness is not a trick, like mimicking a baby crying or a dog barking. It’s a journey for life.
Fortunately, there are a great many proven practices for developing one’s self-awareness. Here’s a short list of three practices I culled from a dozen sources and revised to spark an open-ended conversation:
1. To increase self-awareness start with a self-examination. It’s a challenge to be honest about ourselves and non-judgmental at the same time. There’s a tendency to either berate ourselves for our perceived flaws, or to deny them in exchange for a fantasy view of ourselves. Yet, we’re all a mixed bag of good and bad, and there’s comfort in knowing this to be a normal state of the human condition. Quiet your mind, let go of self-judgment, open your heart to self-forgiveness, and give yourself credit where credit is due. There is no getting it right. There is only getting it.
2. Take quiet walks in nature. This activity lends itself to self-reflection. The rhythm of walking and observing nature moves you naturally to observe your inner life. Nature has a way calling that for which you are searching. Again, you will be visited by doubt and self-criticism. Whatever you perceive as a negative, is an opportunity to explore a more loving way of being toward yourself and others.
3. Train yourself to listen intently to others. When you listen to others, it’s often an experience of being triggered by one idea after the next – not the other person’s ideas, but your ideas about what they are saying. The need to reply becomes overwhelming. Observe these triggers, because they inform you about you, and are therefore an opening to self-awareness. Keep listening intently, and letting go of judgement. The other person doesn’t have to be labeled right or wrong when sharing what they think and feel.