Impressionists are enjoyed for their ability to impersonate all kinds of celebrities. I was brought up on Mike Yarwood who’d end his Saturday night show singing a song in various guises, finally saying “And this is me.” I can’t remember anything he sang, although I do remember the one liners he created for his characters which they never said but he made us believe they did.
Impressionists in everyday life aren’t so enjoyable. As writer Rob Bell was told by his counsellor, “The world doesn’t need a second someone else, it needs the first you.”
Finding our own voice, to say “and this is me,” syncing us with our day, is not as straightforward as it sounds. We can end up sounding like our parents, our friends, our employers, but not ourselves.
And what if the people we try and copy are, or were, themselves copying someone else? Pixar’s Ed Catmull tells of how he felt a fraud when he took up his first job in management at New York Tech, because he wasn’t aggressive and extremely confident like the other managers – he admits that he believed these to be the traits necessary for success.
But the fraud is the person who isn’t prepared to find their own voice and really change something with it. Voice is about character as well as personality.
‘Integrity is formed in the heart of the humble.’*
Humility, not pride, allows us find our voices. The quality of our voice will be determined by the extent to which we interact with new ideas and new people and new places. When we close ourselves to others, we’re effectively saying, “You know nothing I need to know,” “You are someone I do not care or need to connect with.”
The tragedy is that the isolated life becomes an inflexible life. Unable to climb down or ask for help or learn new ways, it is a life stealing from itself the possibility of creatively employing talents and resources to find a voice the world wants to hear.
(*From Erwin McManus’s Uprising.)