In a mere six days, Susan Boyle from Scotland has become a multi-million-view sensation on YouTube. Her rendition of “I Dreamed A Dream” from Les Miserables has been a phenomenon, growing steadily by the minute as more and more people see the video.

Clearly, Susan has an amazing voice. She owned this song, and the audience before too long. In my opinion, “I Dreamed a Dream” is one of the most gorgeous songs ever written, and it’s difficult to sing well. It has a musical range much like the “Star Spangled Banner” (ever have to sing that one by yourself in front of people?). To really pull it off, you need to have some good singing chops. Boy, does she.

But here’s the thing, the real secret to why this woman is getting so much attention and so many cheers. She is not what you expect when she isn’t singing. Susan sang this song on a British talent TV show in front of a large studio audience and and even larger audience watching at home. Though she was just using her voice, so much of a show like that is a visual experience.

She had a lovely dress on, but she wasn’t particularly pretty. Her hair wasn’t anything special, she’d never been married, and she didn’t look like she had a chance. She looked like someone you should feel sorry for, giving it her darnedest but a certain failure about to unfold on stage. As she was being introduced, you could hear sarcastic catcalls and see expressions of disbelief that this woman could ever succeed. A woman like that? Yeah…. right. Looks of confusion, giggling, pity. Expectations of what they thought was about to unfold.

And that’s when the magic happened. At one singular moment about 3 seconds into her singing performance, the entire audience saw how wrong they had been and dropped their expectations straight to the floor. One half second later, they embraced this unbelievable reality of a plain looking unknown woman singing like a Broadway legend. So wrong one second, so emotionally overwhelmed the next.

The crowd eagerly went on the emotional ride with Susan. She hushed them with the sincerity of the lyrics in quieter parts, then shot them through the roof during the climax near the end. Just her voice alone was enough to be thoroughly enjoyable. If this were only an audio clip with no video, the impact would not be as strong. You needed to see her appearance, make your own prejudiced judgment, then go on the ride yourself. To understand how the audience transformed in less than 2 seconds is to understand the miracle of being open to change.

Two of the judges had great courage to speak aloud what the audience had been thinking before Susan’s performance. They were honest to admit that they themselves had been surprised, one saying they were all somewhat “cynical” before she started. The entire audience traveled such a great distance between their initial expectation and the emotional reality, and they did it in a snap. What a rush! That made everyone a bit more humble, and made their satisfaction even deeper. The floor of that performance hall had to be wet with tears.

I even knew there was supposedly something amazing about this video and it still blew me away. Yeah, but how good is she really? Everyone thinks they’re good on these shows. Because of those thoughts, I didn’t watch it until last night even though I’d seen other people commenting on the clips since Monday. Certainly opened my eyes. Go ahead and watch the video, even if you’ve watched it 50 times already. Can’t hurt to do it again.

Here’s the takeaway — who are you misjudging that could blow you away if you gave them the chance? Who is a hidden gem in your life? Who do you minimize in your mind because of your own skewed expectations?



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    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 18 Apr 2009
    Published on All rights reserved.

APA Reference
Krull, E. (2009). Susan Boyle: A Lesson In Expectations and Emotion. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2014, from


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