I was waiting at an audition last Saturday when an unfamiliarly enlightened thought struck me: I was not viewing the other singers around me as competition to be feared and loathed. I could hear snatches of warm-ups and last minute rehearsals from the practice rooms, and from these it was clear that the vocal caliber was quite high. But this didn’t throw me into a panic; I didn’t have the compulsion to compare my own shortcomings to these anonymous sounds. Instead, they reassured me of my worth: since we had already gone through a prescreening round, all the singers around me had been in some way selected to audition. Including me. “If the others are impressive,” I thought, “I must be as well, in some capacity.” I felt like an insider, and I felt flattered.
This isn’t usually the situation at an audition, when tension runs high. Moreover, most audition situations are not callbacks or invitation-based exams: in a general “cattle call,” it is exponentially more difficult to feel loved and wanted. (Except perhaps for the consummate egomaniac, but that’s not really the way to go either.) I realize I won’t have the luxury of feeling so cared for at every interview and audition, but it doesn’t mean I cannot synthesize a comfortable atmosphere through my perception of the situation and, more importantly, of myself in it.
But drawing comparison, and the natural longing for a competitive edge, cannot become a debilitating loss of sense of self. Self-esteem means in part self-knowledge. It means knowing that you are your own working organism, rather than an entirely relative shadow of those around you.
As I’m seeing, it gets easier with age – or rather, with maturity. It also gets easier with experience and a basic list of accomplishments that serve as a stabilizing base. Without these applicable “successes” – concerts, awards, even simple praise – it’s hard to shape a visible form out of the general mass of potential talent and practice hours. In much the same way as children have to develop a sense of their personalities, singers, and other career-people, have to create themselves over time. A balance must be struck between the developing internalized and externally-fueled senses of self.