"You aren't a REAL singer, though. You don't have any hit songs, and you don't have a big recording contract. Now my cousin, he's a real singer, he's in such-and-such band. He gets paid really well. He went to school for it. He..."
I've actually heard this spoken to me, and versions of this, many times throughout my life.
When I was very young, this stung me pretty hard, I bought into it and believed that there was merit to such accusations.
But... as I grew older, I realized a few things:
First, why would someone SAY something like that?
What kind of total lack of manners and maturity would allow someone to say that to another person, even if they thought it was true?
I would never say something like that, not in a hundred years.
It's rude, mean, arrogant, thoughtless, and hurtful.
And besides all that, it doesn't even make sense.
Second, why would someone think they knew all kinds of details about my life, my experience, and my accomplishments?
Especially when they barely know me, or just met me?
Since THEY haven't "heard of me", that apparently means that I have little or no experience, little or no skill, little or no talent... HUH?
So.. only "famous" people can sing, or only "famous" people have any skill or experience, AND the only people who are "famous" and "real" are people who THEY have heard of...
Just how oblivious are people to what others around them are doing, or have done? Extremely.
I've actually had people who have known me my entire life since I was a very small child, upon hearing me perform at some event say things to me like "I had no idea you could sing!" or "I never knew you sang!" or the one that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside, "I never knew you could sing like that!"
~I've been singing, as in "on stage", since I was 2 and a half years old. It's a "normal" thing for me, it's one of the things I've "always done", the way some people have been skiing or rock-climbing their whole lives. When someone I've known since I was a tyke says "I never knew you could sing", first of all, it freaks me out. Never? How have you "known" me my entire life and never knew that about me?
And so I might be reacting strongly to that, it just feels strange to me. I mean I'm not talking about acquaintances who may or may not know or remember things about me, however I might be putting more "closeness" and "depth" on certain relationships than are really there.
Just because I grew up with them or with their kids, or they're related to me, or I worked with them for years, or they've been friends with my parents for decades, or that I know that they're a nurse and an artist who collects antiques, but really wanted to be an architect, doesn't mean they remember personal things about me; maybe I have a better memory, maybe I thought there was more to the relationship connection.
But... why, when they DO find out that I sing, is it such a big deal? So I sing, so what? Lots of people sing, lots of people ice skate, too. Lots of people do all kinds of things. Why is it such a big deal that I sing, and why do they seem *shocked* that I don't necessarily suck?
"I didn't think you had it in you.." Um, is that supposed to be a compliment...?
Then I remember that many people assume that others CAN'T DO THINGS that they haven't actually SEEN them do with their own eyes. (And even then, they'll often pretend it's not happening.)
Especially if they don't already have that person up on a high Pedestal.
Third, why are they trying to make my skill, experience, talent, and accomplishments SMALLER, LESSER, or unimportant?
What are THEY getting out of implying, or SAYING, that I'm not "really a real singer", or that someone else IS a "real singer", or that my skill, ability, and experience is somehow "lacking"?
What exactly are they REALLY trying to accomplish with that?
They CHOSE to say those things, the words didn't just fly out of their mouth like moths from a box of old rice.
It WAS "on purpose".
So... what was the goal?
Are they a Critic who gets paid for publishing their reviews of performances, and they wanted to share their "critique" with me?
Are they my Vocal Coach?
Are they my manager?
Are they the Choir Director, the Conductor, the owner of the Club or Arena?
Are they a close friend who is giving me a "heads up" about a shaky performance, and doing it with grace, tact, and caring?
Nope, nope, and nope...
So...what are they getting out of it?
Fourth, why would someone be THINKING that at all?
Looking back over my "life in music", which spans the whole thing, I scanned memories of times that I might have thought something like that about someone else.
WHEN did I think "He or she is not a REAL (whatever)", and what was I actually FEELING that prompted or instigated those thoughts?
I did find a few memories that matched. Remembering as much of each whole scenario as I could, every one of them had one common denominator:
Scanning the memories again carefully, there was not one single time that I had those kinds of thoughts that were diminishing or demeaning toward someone else where I actually believed that the person WAS NOT a "real" whatever it was, or that they couldn't "really" do it.
In every single case, there was something ELSE going on that invoked an emotional reaction from me.
This guitar player man who was a friend of a friend, who kept doing weird social things. Like pretending to be my friend and asking me to "hang out", and then treating me like a child or like I was "bothering him" when I showed up.
When I finally mentioned it to someone else (a person who kept implying that I had a "crush" on this man), the person was dismissive toward me because they LIKED this guy. They didn't want to accept that he wasn't wonderful.
So that was a few feelings mixed together, mostly resentment, toward both the man and the other person.
When the man played at the local watering hole I remember clearly feeling and thinking "He's an imposter, he's not a real musician, he's faking it." Which of course was not true, he was not faking it, he was a pretty good musician. My feelings were about his social behavior toward me, and feeling demeaned by him AND by the person who was dismissive toward me.
My thoughts transferred my resentment onto his musicianship, because I was trying to make him SMALLER in my mind somehow.
Another example: a singer who was part of a group who came to my Church. He was quite good, and as far as I know, a nice person. I didn't spend any time with him.
However: some people in my Church kept talking about how wonderful he was, and how wonderful the group was, gushing on and on. Which by itself would not have bothered me, and I thought they were wonderful too.
But those were the same people who consistently treated me with condescension and belittlement, who would treat me like I was "weird", "unstable", or "silly" for singing or being a musician. (This was before I understood what "projection" was about, of course.)
So, I remember thinking "He's not even a REAL singer" about this young man who was actually an excellent singer, but who was being treated like a Royal Prince by people who regularly treated me with excessive disrespect, like a "wanna-be" or a "silly child".
It had nothing to do with HIM at all.
There have been other times, of course.
When I remember farther back, I can remember those times when I was over someone else's house and their parents made us lunch, or took us somewhere; I remember thinking "Their parents aren't as good as MY parents." Or "their house isn't as good as OUR house (had nothing to do with the size or 'poshness' of the house)". Or even "Our dog is the best dog."
I've asked many people about this one, and most of them report thinking the same thing when they were little.
In fact, remembering times when I did actually notice that someone's SKILL or confidence showed a possible lack of experience or ability---
thinking "They're not even a REAL singer/musician" DID NOT cross my mind.
I have felt things like compassion, the desire to protect them from rude people, excitement for their future, and I've been greatly inspired~ (I do love seeing someone who isn't a "decorated veteran Expert" in something who has the chutzpah to get up and do it because they WANT TO and ENJOY IT).
But putting them down, and trying to DIMINISH them is not a reaction that I have when I notice that someone's skill is not at an "expert" level, whether due to lack of experience, or because they haven't done the thing in a while.
The only times I have had that kind of reaction toward someone is when I feel RESENTMENT.
Not once have I thought "He/she is not a REAL (whatever)" in a diminishing, belittling way because I actually thought they were lacking in skill, ability, capability, or talent.
Who's a "REAL" Singer? Who's a "REAL" Musician? Who's a "REAL" Chef?
Who's a "REAL" writer...mechanic...builder...plumber...CEO...teacher...counselor...
What exactly are YOUR "criteria" and "requirements" for SOMEONE ELSE to be a "REAL" something or other?
Do your requirements match that of others around you?
Do they match that of other countries?
Do you believe that all successful people have formal training or degrees?
What do you call a person who has had many hours of training, but did not acquire a formal degree?
What do you call a person who is self-taught? (Like many, many famous artists, actors, writers, and musicians?)
What do you call a person who has discovered a new species, or a breakthrough medical discovery, but has not acquired a formal degree?
How about all of the people in previous centuries who did all kinds of things without the kind of "formal training" that we have grown accustomed to in the last century?
(How does one design and build a Parthenon, for example, without going to a modern University and graduating with a Master's Degree?)
I HAVE come across people who exaggerated or had lied about their past accomplishments, experience, degrees, and titles.
But that's NOT the same thing as not being able to DO something, or not being CAPABLE of something.
Having a degree, for example, means a person DID accomplish getting that degree, and that deserves credit, it's a real accomplishment. But that doesn't DIMINISH the ability of others.
The best Chef that ever walked on the Earth might have little or no formal training.
OR, the best Chef on Earth could LIE through her teeth about being the Queen's personal Chef, or graduating from a prestigious Chef school, or being the Head Chef at the White House during Jimmy Carter's presidency.
No formal training, no degree, no important jobs, NOR fabricating training and experience still wouldn't change the fact that she's a fantastic Chef, the best, even.
By the same token, a person who's an "okay" Chef could have graduated from that prestigious Chef school, and could have gotten some prestigious jobs because of that degree, and probably can get good references from people they've connected with due to the school and community. They might have worked in the White House or the Palace, or been a personal Chef to celebrities. But none of that makes them a "Great Chef", or even a really GOOD Chef. They might have been just good enough to pass their classes and graduate, and just skilled enough to keep a position. But that other Chef who didn't go to that school, or really work in the White House or the Palace, who has no formal degree, may always be BETTER at being a Chef than they are.
So which one is the "REAL CHEF"?
And how would one KNOW?
So what would happen. probably, if the two of them were up for the same position?
Who is more likely to get the job, the GREAT CHEF who has no formal degree, or the mediocre Chef who has a degree?
Or what if they both have a degree, but the first (the "great") Chef has one from a Community College or State program, and the second (the "mediocre") Chef's degree is from an expensive, prestigious school?
What if they BOTH have the same degree, from the same school, but one of them is tall, and the other one is short? Or one is female and one is male? Or one is Asian and one is African? Or one dresses conservatively or unflashy, and the other one dresses "sexy"?
We humans are not very good, as a rule, at judging the abilities, talents, and skills of other people; we tend to rely on superficial things: titles, hearsay, appearances, and our own emotional reactions. Very few potential employers would give both Chefs an equal "shot", or NOT make assumptions about which one is probably more skilled or more talented.
We humans tend to PROJECT assumptions and judgments onto others, both negative and positive, based on our emotional reactions and our own bias and prejudice.