Owning Your Voice in Voiceover and in LifeMichael Schwengel
What Blocks Self Expression?
I can vividly recall sitting in the lounge area of my first voiceover workshop, getting to know the other students. Classroom-type settings have historically not been very easy for me. I sat there nervously, waiting for my turn to introduce myself. Pulse racing, hands clammy. When my turn to speak came up, I went “out of body” as had become the norm in that sort of situation. From a blurry distance, I watched numbly as words came out of my mouth that held me over until the attention fell off of me once again.
I looked around the room, and imagined I was the only one feeling this way. Communicating seemed so effortless to everyone else. Yet another morsel to serve my complex that I had no place working in the performing arts. “You’re too sensitive, too weak, too scared.”
Take a look at my 10 year old self at the left and you’ll see someone who was quite ready to take the spotlight. Looking back, I can see that self expression came pretty easy to me at an early age. What I wasn’t ready for at that time was the harsh realities and sometimes unaccepting environment of the world. An emotional, empathic sensitivity coupled with a stressful span of years in Middle and High School taught me a new mode of operation many of us know too well: “Emulate”, “Fit in”, “Become the common denominator”. (More on this at my personal blog OneMichael.com)
Owning the Journey
We all share this story in one form or another. Some more, some less, and showing up in all different stages of life. Relatives, classmates, teachers, even strangers who make overt or passing comments, non-constructive feedback that becomes ingrained in our psyche and form a new, smaller roadmap to navigate life. These defense mechanisms we create can serve a purpose for some time, helping us to feel safe and survive in an unpredictable world. But through time as we grow stronger and want to find new ways to explore our personal and professional lives, we can begin to experience roadblocks when our true voice wants to emerge: the raw power that contains our unique gift to bring to the world.
Side Effects of Not Claiming Your Voice
Personally, I can tell I am not owning my voice when some symptoms start to appear:
- Physical: soreness, aches and pains, especially around the throat or mid back, tightness of breath
- Emotional: depression, anxiety, restlessness, low self esteem
- Professional: lack of creativity, thoughts of scarcity, unable to fully contribute and collaborate with value
- Spiritual/Humanitarian: feeling disconnected from a higher power or sense of humanitarian values
All of these effects originate from fear: of not being enough, doing or saying the wrong thing, being rejected. A fundamental belief that if “If I were to show up and express who I am, I would not be safe.”
Voiceover Teachers & Transformation
For me, the experience of transformation (and remembering who I am) has been catalyzed by several teachers over the years. In order to grow into my creative power as a male voice over artist, I turned to Tina Zaremba, a voice over talent and coach based in NYC. Tina is someone I respect greatly not only for her charisma and talent behind the mic, but also her innate and intuitive way of working with voiceover students that goes far deeper than just the technical. Having been in the business for over 15 years, Tina is a nationally recognized voice, having booked jobs for Folgers, The Weather Channel, Dunkin’ Donuts, United Way, Procter & Gamble, and more.
Her Mission: “Bringing words, feelings, and moments to life. Connecting words. Connecting Hearts.”
Over the course of a few months working one-on-one with Tina, I started to really hear and feel myself develop as a voice over talent as I learned to own my voice more through every session. Tina’s incredibly intuitive, caring, yet strong New Yorker approach cuts through the bull of self-doubt and over-analyzing with practical tools that lead to an experience of self-trust and authenticity. She has a real gift for seeing and moving through the subconscious barriers that come up, which left unnoticed can stifle and stiffen reads. The result of the work is a spontaneous and playful space where surprises are common and real magic happens.
I look forward to sharing some practical tips in the future on how I’ve learned to apply some of these ideas to my craft and business as a voice actor. Until then, check out some of the resources below for more information on how to Unlock Your Voice: