Taking Responsibility

Taking Responsibility
Sunday musings...

So you say your last teacher messed up your voice and it's all their fault.  Okay.  So what about YOU?

So you find another teacher that might be able to help clarify that damage and get you back on track. Okay.  So what about YOU?

Where is YOUR responsibility in all of this?

These are two very common issues.  The blame game and then the ignore it away. 

"So and so messed me up royally"  to "now so and so wants me to rethink my voice and go another direction".

So often,  these two issues collide but the psychology behind them, underneath them is never addressed fully. 

Yes,  shit happens.  Truly it does.  Most of us have had to survive poor teaching, or simply bad teaching.  The key word is SURVIVE.  If you know enough to get out and survive it, you have enough brain cells to say it is time to rework it!  Whether you CHOOSE to do anything about it is up to you.  To simply say "I was RUINED" and not begin to explore possibilities to find a healthy instrument again is often a cop-out.  You running into and colliding with a bad teacher does not make you special.  Welcome to the club.  How you choose to handle it is what makes you rise above the self-pity and blaming it on someone else.  You really don't want to be remembered or be special because you allowed someone else's incompetence to take over your being do you?  Especially in a profession where many of us has not just survived it, but learned to turn it around and thrive and succeed? 

Now, you CHOOSE to either stay "ruined" or you CHOOSE to look clearly into the vocal mirror and say "what do I need?"

Sometimes what we do need is overwhelming.  After our trust has been violated in one instance,  we must learn to trust someone else who may need to take us away from a comfort zone and protective space that is literally hurting us.  As a teacher,  we must earn your trust,  but as a singer, we must prove to that teacher we are WILLING to explore what is being asked of us. 

Responsibility lies in the action of a singer's decisions.

If you are smart enough to say "something is wrong, I am making a change" and you seek out another professional's expertise to say "what is wrong?" and they answer you,  it is your responsibility to explore that and see where it leads. 

Sadly, many singers are so invested in a false sense of themselves - how they appear, what "fach" they are tied to,  how they THINK they want to sound,  what they THINK they want to do,  (none of which is actually realized by the way - only in their minds) - that they do not have the tools to realize that positive changes are actually making them better.

Honestly,  the hardest cases I liken to abuse victims that continue to go back to their abusers.  That might be a strong analogy but it does give one pause doesn't it?

If the "victim" does not recognize the help, the change, the possibility for themselves, they will repeatedly return to what they "know" because in some strange and bizarre level it is "comfortable".  Comfort doesn't mean right;  it doesn't mean correct;  it is KNOWN.  It is the UNKNOWN that is frightening,  unsure and unstable. 

Singers who have invested time, energy, money with someone who led them in a direction that was not healthy, not realistic, not true have to make a DECISION once this is understood and take responsibility for that decision.  Yes, it is complex.  Yes, it is tough.  But if you KNOW you must CLAIM.  It is simply the first step.

Finding the truth can be daunting.  If you have been singing the wrong repertoire,  if you have a very distorted view of your voice,  if you have damaged the voice,  and if you take the steps to discover what has happened,  why it has happened and what you need to do to fix it,  then you must decide if you WILL.  This is YOUR responsibility.

If a dedicated and true teacher will tell you and show you and lead you and offer you the tools to discover what you NEED,  you must decide whether you will relinquish the "comfort" of victim and move forward into an unknown territory or stay where you are.  YOUR decision.  YOUR responsibility.  Learning what you NEED may not be what you thought - it might not be what you WANT.  Wants have no reality if the needs aren't meant.

If you begin this new and tentative journey,  each step will reveal where you are.  Not where you were.  Where you ARE.  New, possible, positive. It will reveal something new, and perhaps not what you expected.  That doesn't need to be BAD!  However, you need to decide and take responsibility for it.

What if a teacher invests in YOU and you begin to see progress,  discover possibilities,  make healthy changes?  YOU need to invest in you.  YOU need to trust the re-working and re-discovery might actually benefit YOU and make you a better singer and lead you into the repertoire and roles you are truly meant to learn and sing.  The PROCESS needs to be discovered.  If you can see the progress,  if you are a healthier singer,  how can you NOT relinquish the victim?  If you see positive investment around you,  how can you NOT invest in your new possibilities?

However, some simply cannot relinquish the victim mentality.  That can be a choice, or an issue that is much larger than singing. 

If you are a singer who is making progress with a new teacher and makes a DECISION to go back to old ways, old fach - that is YOUR responsibility.  That isn't someone else's fault. 

Singers CHOOSE to listen or not.  Singers CHOOSE to study or not.  Singers CHOOSE to stay "comfortable" and perhaps put themselves in a detrimental situation or get uncomfortable for a while to discover the truth.  Singers CHOOSE.  They are not held at gun point. 

Real teachers of craft,  who have integrity and see each singer as the individual they are are willing to part with a student because they KNOW the choice is up the singer.  They will wish that singer well,  saddened that said singer could be their own worst enemy but recognize that choice is not a reflection of them, but rather a reflection of what a singer has decided to do, or not to do.

Some singers learn the truth and go another way.  Some singers stay deluded because it gives them a false sense of security and control.

As teachers with integrity,  we can't save them all.  We often have to let those singers go who simply make a choice not to see, or have issues larger than our training allows us to address.

As singers,  if we KNOW we have an issue,  if we truly WANT to be a better singer,  we must take responsibility for the decisions we make.  If we blame everybody else for our issues,  it might be time to re-evaluate what we are truly victims of.  Realization can be illuminating, but it can be worked very had to hide for fear of the unknown.

As a teacher, I take responsibility for what I am responsible for.

As a singer,  I am responsible for the decisions I make for the decisions I choose to make or choose not to make.  Those decisions are completely and fully at the feet of the singer.

As a teacher, if a singer makes a choice to not accept and goes elsewhere - fly, be free!  Take responsibility to find what you need  -not what you THINK you need.

As a singer,  quit making excuses if the truth sits in front of you.  If you choose NOT to do anything about it,  claim that choice too.  The responsibility is simply yours.

Susan Eichhorn Young covers all things voice—strong and sophisticated singing and speaking. 

If you liked this post, please share it or comment with your thoughts below!