Be Selfish – That Person In The Mirror Is Probably Mistaken

Hey, there!

I spent some time recently in San Francisco with some of my students, and self-perception versus the perception of the casting director came up.

I listened carefully to the students’ answer to this question: “How do you figure out what the producer/writer/casting director wants, so you can give it to them?”

Right off the bat, that sounded like there were no right answers, because it was the wrong question to be asking.

And the answer to that very wrong question is very, very simple.

“You don’t figure it out. You don’t even consider it.”


Glad we dodged that bullet, right?

But what do you do instead? If you’re not going to wrack your brain being the best “Morgan Freeman-esque with an edge” VO announcer you can be, what do you do?

That is simple as well.

Just be you.

Don’t do anything but what you’d do anyway. Bring YOU to the party. Make sure YOU and your brand shines.

Even if you have to ignore that screaming voice in your brain to “FIGURE IT OUT! YOU’RE NOT ENOUGH! BE BETTER THAN YOU ARE!”

So, why are we so drawn to giving them something they want, rather than what we are?

That, too, is simple.

Because we don’t trust that what we are and what we show the world is enough.

And yet, it is.

But we insist on telling ourselves every day just how flawed we are, just how much we don’t have, we constantly remind ourselves of our shortcomings and on and on.

And we often do it directly to ourselves, via a simple device.

Our mirror.

We get up, we complain about how we feel, about how we look, we pick at our faces, we apologize for morning voice, we put on clothes we complain should fit better, we put on makeup and creams and product to make our bodies “better.” And that’s just in the first 45 minutes or so.

Then we get an audition or twelve, and instead of instantly going to “I got this. Let’s do it,” we assume that once again, we don’t have what we need, we’re not skilled enough, some celebrity’s going to do better at this than we are, the casting director isn’t going to hear what s/he put in the breakdown when s/he listens to the audition, and so much more.

We literally talk ourselves out of the competition.

Why? Because we’re not selfish enough.

I don’t mean the hoarding, exclusionary type of selfishness.

I mean the absolutely essential selfishness of owning your talent, your brand and your potential.

Don’t ever give that away. If not for you, then for the people you work with, audition for and perform with. They are counting on you to be the way they see you, not how you see you.

More on that in a moment.

When I work with VO clients, in class or in private sessions, I feel like I spend a fair amount of my time giving those clients complete carte blanche to be awesome and successful. I find myself saying, “Give yourself a break. Go for that strong choice you really want me to hear. Give yourself the permission to be spectacular.”

I get that is hard for some people to hear, because it’s not the way we’re programmed. From birth, we compete for attention, then are told to mind our manners. There’s value in being polite, but “mind your manners” sometimes becomes “don’t show everything lest you be told to be quiet.”

Don’t hold back. Give me YOU. Give your cast mates when you’re on set or in studio or on stage YOU. Not what you think they want, or what you think the CD wants or what you think the director wants. You.

You might be surprised to learn that in almost every case you can imagine, you see yourself completely different than do others. And by “different,” I mean “less than.” Friends, family, castmates, audition partners, agents, CDs, and even me. We look at you as a glass 5/6ths full, as opposed to something close to empty.

Here’s a great video I want you to take 2 1/2 minutes to watch. At about the 2:17 mark, just near the end, you’ll get a piece of wisdom you can take to the bank of life. Then, come back here for some final thoughts.

Watched it? Great.

Is that you? The one downing themselves, being self-depricating, calling out faults, minimizing the good? Was it surprising to you to see that even the strangers on the other side of the mirror are rooting for you, see you in a great light, and notice your strengths? Can you imagine for a moment how the people who care about you look at you?

I’m going to ask you to ignore the voice that you sometimes hear calling out to you when you look in the mirror. And I’m going to ask you to be selfish.

Everywhere. Especially in front of a microphone.

And I’m asking you to give yourself a break, go for that strong choice, and give yourself permission to be spectacular.

If you do that, I can help you even more.

If you would, share with me what kind of conversation you’ve been having with yourself in the comments below. And give me some idea of how you’re going to change that if change is needed.

Hope this helps.



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  1. Strong column as usual, David, cogent, direct, forceful. I suspect you don’t do a lot of reflective mirror gazing; but it did leave me puzzled.

    Even if one concedes how necessary a positive self-image, particularly body image, is to giving rationale and reason to push through obstacles and attain one’s life-goals””it seems counter intuitive to the specific needs of a voice artist.

    Mind you I have the luxury of having had the mirror epiphany when I was in my preteens. It protected me in high school and was fully developed by the time I had to fend for myself in the Real World. One of the reasons I have the confidence to debate someone not only well grounded, well read and experienced such as yourself, but positing a solid premiss, on your own turf.

    Now I do see how being so fortified could help me promote my business, network with clients and influencers, make a memorable personal impression (whether good or bad.) But this is where I am puzzled. I cannot see how this will help me get a booked.

    As a voice actor, I want to become a better actor. I want to become a great actor. I don’t want to be a better me. I want to be a better [insert character role here.] In a business where one never presents one’s image, being more comfortable with my looks seems superfluous and being more ‘me’ in an audition counter productive.

    1. You may have missed the point – the article wasn’t about being more comfortable with your looks. It was about being comfortable with all that you already bring to the table when you audition and work.

      And not wanting to be a better you? Well, although that saddens me, I do thank you for illustrating my point exactly. I’m suggesting you change that thinking.

    2. Hi Ed,

      I wanted to respond to you as I feel this article is about accepting and embracing what you have to offer; becoming a better actor is all about being you.

      The analogy regarding looking in the mirror and criticizing your external features is about comparison; trying to be like someone else or trying to figure out what the casting director wants takes you outside of yourself and disconnects you from your instincts. Your interpretation is just as valid as anyone else’s and it will be different because you are unique. If you try to think like someone else or replicate how someone else would do it then it dilutes your performance because they are not your choices and you have lost your deepest connection; a copy is never as good as the original.

      As Ian Mckellen says: Acting is a very personal process. It has to do with expressing your own personality, and discovering the character you’re playing through your own experience – so we’re all different.” but if you don’t accept and embrace who you are then you are never going to develop into a great actor.

      You are enough, you are an extensive resource.

  2. I. Absolutely. Loved. This.

    What a power read. What a ‘shot in the arm’, head and heart! I could easily pull quotes out-of this blog and pin them all over my studio. My favs?

    “…we insist on telling ourselves every day just how flawed we are, just how much we don’t have, we constantly remind ourselves of our shortcomings and on and on.” True.

    “…I’m asking you to give yourself a break, go for that strong choice, and give yourself permission to be spectacular.”


    Loud Cheers, DHL!

  3. David,
    I always enjoy and learn from your posts! This one LITERALLY brought tears to my eyes! Thank you!

    When I teach my Zumba classes, I spend most of the hour, facing away from the mirror. I look out into a room full of beautiful, happy people, then afterwards they come up and ask: “How do I lose this?” and point to a part of themselves. Or, “I’m sorry I didn’t dance very well today.” I get it! When I turn around & face the mirror, I start to critique myself, as well. It’s a nasty habit.

    What I’ve learned through teaching & has been reiterated here by you: When you don’t “look” at yourself, instead you spontaneously create & share, not caring WHO likes or doesn’t like you/your work. Simply KNOWING & accepting that some people won’t care for you/your work, BUT, some people will, and you might just make their day/get the job 🙂 The best part is: You’re free to stop worrying and have FUN!

  4. Excellent stuff David. Reaffirms the distilled essence of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching which I read daily.
    From my perspective that distillation is;
    The people and occurrences we draw into our lives are not the result of what we want, rather they are the ongoing ever evolving kinesthetic and spiritual byproduct of who we are.

  5. Hi David-its been a couple of months since I participated in your free online VO class. Believe it or not, I am currently finishing up my first audio book that I was contracted for.

    I’m glad I saw this. I’m making myself crazy listening to my own voice–too much sibilence, too fast, too slow, mouth noise—blah blah blah. The author picked me and she heard 15 minutes, so I must have done something right. Right?

    I do plan on enrolling in your program. In just that short time, you helped me so much. At this point, I am just so swamped trying to finish this book. But I will be in touch soon.


    Lori Moran

  6. David –

    Thank you. That was gorgeous. Nuthin’ but net.

    Break up all those microfaults we consistently find into tiny twigs and let them drift downstream.


    – Jim

  7. Wow! What great insights. I was just actually having one of those days where I feel everything I do is not good enough. Your article and the video brought tears to my eyes and made me take another look at myself.

    Thank you!

  8. Read this from your earlier post and just read it again from a re-post by Debbie Barnes. Really needed to see this again. The mind can always find ways to find negative things to bitch about before it will find positive things to be grateful for. Doubt is a total mind game. I’m always at odds with myself about my age(63, in dog years that would be really old) my talent ( back to you are enough) money for coaching( plenty of blogs, news letters and freebies from a lot of talented folks out there, you included Dave).The bottom line is , if I would spend more time practicing and using what I already know, instead of complaining about me and who I think I am, I’m sure I would realize I am enough. Confidence is the lack of doubt.

  9. If what you say is true David then why do I need your self direction video or any of your training.. Also when you’re in a session and you’re being directed to do it this way or that way how does that work

    1. Please don’t miss the point: I never said you didn’t need to get better as an actor – that would be confusing training requirements with execution pressure points.

      What I’m saying is not to add to your burden by thinking that what you’re already capable of doing is never going to be enough. That’s a pressure no one needs.

      I’m also saying don’t try to play the fool’s game of trying to predict what a casting director wants when you’re AUDITIONING. If a session director asks you to perform a line a certain way, by all means, do it. But don’t layer in the idea that you need to suss out what they want, even before you’ve done it your way, with your brand shining brightly.

  10. I have so much gratitude for having found you as my VO instructor. You don’t just teach your students the art, science and commerce of being a voice talent…you teach us about our souls as well. Can’t thank you enough for that, David.

  11. David, as you know I’m an acting coach, and one month years ago, I assigned a scene from “Taming of The Shrew” where Kate and Petruchio first meet to one pair of actors. It was a class of thirty-six people, and after the couple finished, other actors said they wished I had assigned it to them.

    So for the next class, I had everyone doing the scene, and for a month they would work and switch partners, and at the end of the experiment, everyone was able to concur that we all bring such unique gifts to a scene that no one could have been said to be “the best.”

    Since I have also directed both plays and films, I know that when casting I may not be able to pick the most able actor for a role since I have to match them up in so many different ways… height and energy and other factors mattering.

    That experiment was my epiphany, and it taught me and the others in that class that each of us is a gem, and all we have to do is shine. And you, David, are a master at aiding us to do that. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.