Everyone loves the underdog. From David and Goliath to Rocky, there’s something eminently satisfying about seeing the little guy win.

Are we all underdogs? Most of the time, I certainly put myself in that position. I have terrible self-esteem (like most artists), so I automatically assume everyone I compete against is better than me. I struggle with my perfectionism constantly, and even when I know that I have achieved quite a bit, I still see myself at the bottom rung of the ladder.

But I always thought this mindset was a strength. I was raised to be modest, to never get a “swelled head,” as my dad put it. And I think that modesty has gotten me far, because it has made me work hard to get ahead, never stopping to rest on my laurels.

This week, I attended a seminar by Dallas Travers with my fellow Divas. Although Dallas works primarily with stage and film actors, much of her message carries over to the singing world as well, and I found myself taking furious notes (that’ll be another post entirely). One thing she said resonated with me more than anything else that night: “Your odds are entirely determined by your expectations.”

Your odds are entirely determined by your expectations.

Underdog, long shot, sleeper: what pessimistic synonyms to describe the person who is least likely to win! No wonder I always feel like I’m on the bottom rung if I have placed myself in this role. There I am, being the submissive dog, rolling onto my back as the winner dominates me. The target is placed so far away I can barely see it, much less pull my arm back on the bow to let the arrow fly. Am I asleep, that the contest is almost passing me by before I awake?

My odds
are entirely
by my expectations.

This Saturday, I am singing in the semifinals for the Oratorio Society of New York’s solo competition. If I make it through to the next round, I will sing in the finals at Carnegie Hall* on April 2. Instead of looking at my competition and thinking of them as so much better than me, I don’t want to think of them at all. This competition is not about them; it’s about me, and how I expect myself to perform.

So, how should I picture myself now? Am I still the little guy? The dark horse? No, I think I’m the littlest bird who sings the prettiest songs. I’m the artist I have always striven to become, and it only gets better from here. I love singing, and I love bringing music to people. I love my voice, and I think you will too.

But I still won’t mind if you all cross your fingers for me at 1:50 pm on Saturday, March 26.

*don’t even ask how to get there, I’m practicing already.

This post was an Indie Ink Writing Challenge response to this prompt from Jen O.:

Write anything – any genre, fiction or non, any length – around my favourite metaphor: The littlest bird sings the prettiest songs.

You can read Wendryn’s response to my challenge here.
P.S. – In case you’re curious, this is what I sound like:

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The Littlest Bird
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  • Marian

    beautiful! i hope you get there! so beautiful, you are.

  • Wendryn

    I’ve heard a lot of people singing in my life. You’re good. It’s incredibly nice to hear someone who isn’t a soprano completely owning a piece. You may be the littlest bird, but you have a beautiful voice. Xander and I both want to know if you have any recordings that you get royalties for – we’d buy them in a second.nnI grew up singing in the Bay Area and going to every performance I could. I’ve listened to good, not so good, and, well, painful. you are solidly in the first category, and that’s not something I say lightly.nnI’ll keep my fingers crossed, but I’d bet the other people in the competition are afraid of you. If they aren’t, they ought to be.nn*hugs*

  • “I love singing, and I love bringing music to people. I love my voiceu2026u201dnnYouu2019re already there. nStretch your wings.nFly.nn

  • Jen O.

    Lovely. I’ll cross my fingers for you, but I don’t think you’ll need the luck to win.

  • If you’re still half as good as you once were when I knew you better, you have nothing to worry about. And I know you’re better than you were when I knew you better.nnBreak a leg.

  • I love you. I love this. You’re going to own that competition. nnMuch love,nnFina

  • Another great response to the challenge! I would venture to add that it is more than our expectations that determines our odds for our expectations can sometimes be quite punishing; rather, the measure of our success is in large part a factor of our aspirations and our courage to pursue them. I think this is one of the most challenging things that one can do – to measure ourselves against ourselves and not against others. I commend you on such a brave step.

  • Oh and I LOVE the soundbit! I wish you the best of luck on Saturday!

  • Peteandrenda

    Maren, The sound clip is wonderful! What a lovely voice, what a lovely woman, you are a winner regardless of any competition. n

  • Wonderful voice, wonderful write. I wish you the best of luck in all you do – and what you do is truly a gift. u2665

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  • That song is one of my favorites. Thanks for using the opportunity to share your voice with us. Beautiful. Sending good energy your way tomorrow!

  • i enjoyed hearing your perspective about the underdog, and i am sending you vibes and thoughts for your audition!

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