The Contrast

The Contrast
Lift Big, Sing Big, Look Great Doing It.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Body and Vocal Dysmorphia

When a person begins this journey of changing their physique, they will run into numerous obstacles. It's not just the issue of time, money, and passion or drive either. Sometimes the roadblocks that spring forth can actually be quite severe and present themselves in your mental stability.

The following could be misunderstood as me being negative. I'm not trying to call out anybody, I'm merely pointing out something I've observed in myself, in others, and something that is perpetuated by teachers, instructors, and some authorities members that might not be true. Feel free to disagree.

Today I'm going to Highlight a couple of disorders and theorize another disorder.

Body Dysmorphia:

"Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), also known as dysmorphophobia, is an underrecognized yet relatively common and severe mental disorder that occurs around the world. Patients with BDD believe they look ugly or deformed (thinking, for example, that they have a large and 'repulsive' nose, or severely scarred skin), when in reality they look normal. As a result of their appearance concerns, they may stop working and socializing, become housebound, and even commit suicide.

BDD sufferers may perform some type of compulsive or repetitive behavior to try to hide or improve their flaws although these behaviors usually give only temporary relief. Examples are listed below:

  • camouflaging (with body position, clothing, makeup, hair, hats, etc.)
  • comparing body part to others' appearance
  • seeking surgery
  • checking in a mirror
  • avoiding mirrors
  • skin picking
  • excessive grooming
  • excessive exercise
  • changing clothes excessively"

This poor girl is an extreme case of someone suffering from body dysmorphia. There are many who have these behaviors in a smaller, more controlled fashion, however, the problem still has a grip over their behaviors.

Body dysmorphia is theorized to be caused by psychological and environmental factors. Introverts and self-conscious individuals who have had traumatizing early childhood experiences combined with social learning are the most inclined to have this disorder.

However, there are additional social and commercial elements that are being explored in regards to body dysmorphia. People are theorizing that the unrealistic imagery perpetuated by our media/Photoshop era is creating a false sense of reality amongst our population that is stimulating this kind of self hatred or the negative treatment of others

"Results indicated (a) the more time men and women reported watching television, the higher their reported drive for muscularity (b) total hours of viewing sports-related, image-focused, and entertainment television related to increased drive for muscularity in women (c) drive for muscularity in men related to watching image-focused television and reading men's health magazines, and (d) internalization of athletic attitudes towards appearance mediated the relationship between total television watched and drive for muscularity in both genders."

This kind of thoughts and behavior runs rampant on the internet where anonymity gives people courage. That's why there are so many "haters" on YouTube videos, forums, and the oh so loveable Facebook. Many of them are victims (in a way) of false expectations, and when others don't meet those, they feel entitled to comment as such.

The real trouble is when a persons laser beam scrutiny burns everyone but themselves. Like someone talking about how "fat" someone is (even if that individual is a healthy body weight) when they themselves aren't exactly stage ready conditioning. They judge others on a scale that they themselves don't live up to. These people often manifest themselves as trolls and haters on said anonymous platforms.

Vocal Dysmorphia

I don't believe that this is a medical condition that has been studied, or even considered a "thing." I couldn't find a study on this particular disorder, however, I truly believe it's real. And not just in the realm of singing, either. I stumbled on this comment in a forum:

"Is there such thing as this disorder? I know there's body dysmorphic disorder where someone can think they are really ugly but they're not. But I have these thoughts in my head that my voice is really ugly and I'm shy to speak to people. I can't read or speak in front of the class at school because of this and I have to ask my teachers not to call on me. This has been going on for a few years now and I still haven't gotten over it. Anyone know what I should do?"

I hope this person found someone to help them. I can understand being insecure in the vocal and physical department, seeing that I basically live in that reality 100% of the time.

Insecurities about your voice run rampant in the profession of singing. The impact of it can be immensely crippling. And it's created, just like in body image disorders, from repetitive negative behaviors or from the punishing insistence of others from people we consider trustworthy.

Opinions are like assholes. Meaning everybody is an ass hole...

I'm being facetious, but it doesn't even take a completely negative comment to send a person with insecurities into a spiral of self hatred and doubt. It takes very little actually. Even the absence of positivity is enough to fuck someone up. 

So, it makes a person think "Now I can't tell people the truth without worrying that I'm destroying someone's mental health? What do I gotta do now, treat everyone with kitten gloves?" (Kitten Mittens)

No, it means that these people need help, and they probably need your patience. Whether or not you give it to them is your prerogative. But, unless you're in a position where giving criticism is your job (i.e. you're being paid for your opinion), it's probably a good practice to not be overly critical or overly vocal about your ideas of someones talent. By all means, have your opinions, but no need to be a monster about it.

Artistry in Singing

One of the biggest losses a person can experience due to this kind of trauma is the feeling of losing the idea of individuality, the idea of being an artist incapable of making their own decisions. I've also heard this described as "having the personality coached out of your instrument." I've felt this before, and I've felt complete apathy about my approach to a piece of music that has been coached the hell out of, especially when the person giving direction is much more experienced in the field. It's hard to tell if you're artistically contributing at times, or if you're just becoming a vessel for their ideas.

The only way to be firm in your resolve is to be so confident about your choices, and having logic and research to back it well enough to argue your position if you do feel strongly about it. Of course, if you're just doing something to be self serving, you don't have a real artistic leg to stand on, which means that you probably should just be apathetic about the artistic aspect of the product and just worry about the mechanistic production. There is no shame in that, some of the greatest performers in the world have been just incredible sound boxes. Radio, records, and even nose bleed seats can't really tell the difference physically, as long as the color and intent of the language and the voice comes across.

However, know this: A coach/teacher/director can only manipulate your ideas and perception about the notes, drama, language, and some technical approaches, In the end the noises that come out are still yours. That's your voice, it's just gotten knowledge and experience from others. You're an important piece to the puzzle, more specifically, the MOST important piece.

Big Voice Theories


There are a lot of singers who like to talk up the size of their voices, and then also like to talk about how they won't sing this, or can't sing that because of it's size and how "it doesn't fit that rep." The fact that they have to wait to sing the rep that they were "meant" to sing is like a badge of honor, but it usually means they can be apathetic and lackadaisical about the projects they pursue at their current age and experience.

I do believe that there are individuals with some real cannons out there. Greer Grimsley, Stephanie Blythe and Dolora Zajick being the top three that pop into my head. However, how often do you really hear about these individuals talking about how big their voices are? It's usually from either experiencing these voices live or word of mouth that a person learns about how awe inspiring these instruments are.

I used to be obsessed with the idea of my voice being big and attempted to force it to be bigger at times. It's something that has caused a great deal of detriment to my ideas of what singing is and should be. I think part of it came from a rebellion of wanting to be different than other singers and allowed me to sing so poorly for so long with the excuse of "this is just how my voice works." Also, my previous physical appearance didn't exactly lend itself well to some of the light lyric baritone roles. I feel that my current physique is much more versatile and can adapt itself to more situations, but that's just my opinion. I don't believe that I have a voice that is inaudible, but I'm not longer concerned about whether or not my voice is bigger than another persons. As long as it's audible within certain textures and that it fits the situation of the drama I'm pleased. Plus, the idea of limiting myself to the kinds of repertoire I will sing sounds boring. I love lots of different characters and music, and I'd like to experience all of it before I'm too old and too apathetic to try it out.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

"Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a chronic (lifelong) mental condition. With NPD, your thoughts and behaviors cause problems with your relationships. You feel that you are better and smarter than everyone else. You may act out in ways that cause problems with your daily life activities, such as work and school. With NPD, you need to be the center of attention and feel that you should be loved by other people. You have trouble caring about others and their feelings. You want to control the people and events in your life."

People who try to better themselves in any department can "suffer" from this. However, I've noticed this a lot in myself and in others in the physique and singing business. It's like a method of mental super compensation for those who have spent years feeling insignificant in regards to their craft.

The art of self improvement is inherently narcissistic, which is only a bad thing if you let it get out of hand or allow it to affect your relationship with others. It's important to keep yourself grounded.

But again, this isn't necessarily all the individuals fault. Sometimes a person's perception of themselves can be puffed up by others, including that person's trusted authority members. It could be a coach, a teacher, a parent, or just anybody that's wanting you to be the best of the best, when they may not know what that takes themselves. It's your job to surround yourself with authority members whose opinions you can trust, where you can learn and grow from their advice, and you're not gonna be a broken mess because of it.

Full Discretion

I believe I have a body image disorder. At least slightly...if that's even a thing. It's part of the reason why I decided to write about it. But, I defy you to find me a person who wasn't 300lbs, lost 110lbs of it and then still gets a little weird when the scale goes up even a pound. Luckily I'm conscious (meaning I'm not in denial) of this shit and understand this enough to cope with it on the daily. It's not something that's going to fix itself today, tomorrow, or even a month from now.

My current goal is to not let my concepts of what fat is be extended to others. Because that's ugly and unfair. I'm trying to not let that kind of judging exist in my head, mostly because I feel it extends from jealousy of people's complete ignorance of diet. (If that makes any sense.)

I'm in a funny way, because I'm in the best conditioning of my life, I'm getting stronger, I'm eating plenty of calories on my training days, but I'm also being very specific about how much I eat of what I do eat. I'm not going out to eat, I'm not eating a bunch of fat. However, I'm not exactly regretful of this because when I do over eat, I feel like shit. I probably just need a good cheat meal reminder of this shit. (First world problems, am I right?) This could be described as neurotic or unhealthy by some types, but again, I accept this about myself and I'm researching ways to get out of this hole down the road while keeping my sanity...and ideally my abs.

Also, I may be playing too much of the self diagnosing WebMD game, but I find myself indulging in very narcissistic thoughts and behaviors. It's often a consequence of being a person who is constantly working on his or her craft. However, I can't help but find a lot of truth in some of the above statements about narcissism in myself when I read through the descriptions. Some would disagree, others would agree, but it's something that I should at the very least be conscious of in terms of potential harm it may do to my life.

Now, some of you may think I've shared too much of my private life and that this whole post is a little TMI (too much information.) HOWEVER, I think it's important for people to realize that losing a bunch of weight won't make you perfect, or happy. It will just make you different. You may be a lot happier, which I am. I'm more driven, I feel more purpose, I have a means to address my emotions in healthy ways, and I feel more confident in so many more ways that I never thought I would, but I'm not a finished product, and sometimes the head game that one plays with oneself can make a person batty. Focusing too much on a singular goal and driving your body, mind, and social existence into the ground is a real risk that everybody who is looking to "better" themselves should be mindful of. Look at your goals and understand some of the consequences that could even potentially happen. Awareness is power in the mental game.

Until next time, keep a cool head, be confident, but don't be a self appreciating son of a bitch that no one can stand to be around. And, as always...

Lift Big, Sing Big, And Look Great Doing It.

The Opera Bro


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