It was when I was receiving voice therapy for MTD (muscular tension dysphonia) and vocal nodules that I first heard the term “NGE” (not good enough) by my speech-language pathologist, and future mentor, Anat Keidar, Ph.D., CCC-SLP. I was working so hard to make that elusive perfect sound. You know, trying (another word that is a trap, but that will come in a later blog post) to do everything JUST RIGHT.
The truth is, perfect doesn’t exist. And working hard was working against, not for me.
Our voice is not separate from “us”. It is our body, mind and emotions. We are going to have days where our body experiences things that are out of our control (ex. allergies, sickness, muscle aches, etc.). We will have days when our bodies feel/move differently than others and those when our emotions control these actions. Anyone have to sing at a loved one’s funeral? What about after having a fight with someone? Ever have to sing after getting absolutely NO sleep? You may or may not be in your optimal singing state.
This is NORMAL. This is human.
So, we put ourselves down for this, which doesn’t serve us at all. Instead, we can practice some self-compassion and continue to see singing as a function of the body. We can only own what we can control. Knowing this is freedom. Yes, we can get better at owning our emotions and connections between the mind and the body, but this is a journey. A journey of ups and downs, not a straight path to ownership.
What about working hard? From a physical standpoint, I thought if I could do something well, I could do something AWESOME by working harder, right? This can present a a problem with with voice production which does require work, but not undesired tension.
We often tell ourselves that if we could do MORE this will always equal MORE. In fact, this can lead to more harm than help. I’d often say to my teachers/therapist, “I don’t know why it’s (me-my voice) not working. I am working so hard,”. It took me a while to figure out that this was the problem.
Singing or recuperating from a voice issue requires focus and attention to function of the vocal mechanism, but this does not mean working “hard”. It means working more efficiently. It’s actually about doing the least amount possible to achieve the desired sound.
In the end, good is good enough. It will take us further than chasing something that doesn’t exist.
Know what you can and can’t control
Continue to work to understand how the body works from a scientific standpoint.
Learn mindfulness when it comes to your emotions and how they affect your voice.
And above all, ditch the perfectionist mindset and leave “good” alone.
This is the path to owning one’s voice.