Some people never question anything, least of all themselves. They assume that they are just fine, thank you very much, and that if things in their life are not quite right they should just ignore them or blame something (or someone) else for what’s wrong.
If you have been taught that strength means that you should “tough it out” and “mind your own Ps and Qs”, you are not likely to ever take a look at anything that shows up in your life as if it were there to teach you something. If you are taught that it is weak to accept help of any kind, or that accepting help makes you obligated to the person who gave it, you are not likely to ever allow yourself to be human enough to realize that everyone in life needs help at some point. Asking for it is a sign of mental health and spiritual humility. Never asking for it is, plainly, unproductive or sometimes, obstructive to yourself and others.
If you find that certain events in your life happen over and over again and you wonder why, don’t look out there in the world to find an answer, look within. Ask yourself what it is in your own behavior and your own attitudes that provokes these things to recur. Act, in fact, as if you had something to do with what shows up in your life, regardless of whether or not you think you are an “innocent victim”. You’re not.
Introspection is about asking WHY? If you do not ask yourself this question, you will never get very far in being an artist or even in being a success in life. And, if your answer consists of “I don’t know” and you stop there, don’t even bother asking the question at all. There is always an explanation. If you do not like what you find in yourself and you would rather just ignore it in the hopes that it might just disappear, you will find that nothing changes.
As a vocalist, you must be able to ask why. Why this sound and not that? Why this feeling and not that? Why this way and not that way? Why is this better and this worse? Why should I do this and why should I not do the other?
The other questions matter, too. What is this going to do for me if I do it and what happens if I do not? When is this going to be pertinent to me and in what way? How will I know that this is working or good or useful? How will I know that I’m wasting my time? Where should I go for advice? Who seems to be successful at what I want to do? How can I follow in their path? Would this person give me advice?
The biggest questions are about your own point of view. If you are the only person who is ever “right”, if you are the one who always has “the best answer”, if you are the one who always does the best job or the one who can never do it right, if you are better than everyone else or never as good, they you need to take a good deep look at your point of view about yourself and life in general. If you are quick to give advice but never take any, if you are willing to jump in and tell others how to behave but don’t ever try to change your own behavior, you need to take a good deep look at your point of view.
Ego, with a capital E, is about you feeling better or worse than someone else. If you can look at everyone else as being the same as you, only different, then you won’t be worried about how others perceive you, or whether or not you are accepted by them. You will not measure yourself by your own perceptions and ideas alone, nor strictly by what others tell you. We need to teach students to work without a capital E ego. They need to learn to serve the work at hand.
What are the needs of this song? How can I meet those needs? What do I need to work on most in order to overcome any weaknesses I might have? Where should I be directing my attention in order to make the song a more meaningful and authentic communication? You can bet that if you never ever ask yourself any of these questions about yourself and your own life, you won’t be very good at answering them about a character or a song either. Self-consciousness is an ego-centric mind state. You become the center of your own universe, as if no one and nothing else was as important as you. We need to teach singers how to overcome self-consciousness through skill and discipline. If you don’t notice that the world does not, in fact, revolve around you (and some people do not notice), you won’t be much use as a teacher or an example to your students.
Generally speaking, in my experience, artists become more used to these kinds of questions than average people do because of the necessity of artistic expression being authentic. That doesn’t mean that there are no successful artists who are NOT introspective but it does mean that they are not the greatest role models for us to have as human beings. Some people act as if they have no psychological history and no emotional patterning in their thinking. Realistically, most people are in that category. If you teach singing or sing, you really have to learn to be deeply, honestly and courageously introspective. An unexamined life truly is not worth living. That can be said about the voice, too.
You can run, but you can never hide (from yourself).