Your Voice

In literature, a writer has “a voice”. It means that he or she has a way of writing that is distinctive and recognizable. Although I haven’t read many novels since high school, preferring to read non-fiction most of the time, I know that certain famous writers’ styles are so unique that fans would know who was doing the writing without being given the name.

The idea of “having a voice” is strong in our society which supports (at least in theory) the rights of the individual. We are protected by the first amendment (in theory) to “free speech” and to “voice our opinions”. People are encouraged to “speak out” or “speak up” or to “have a say”.

As a child if you were told, “Children should be seen and not heard,” (that was a familiar idea in past generations), you were also being told, “Keep quiet. We are not interested in anything you have to say.” That message certainly says, “You have no voice”. If you spoke up about something and were punished for doing so, that message says “It’s better to keep some things to yourself.” If you were saying something loudly and repeatedly and it was just ignored, that message teaches you to conclude “no matter how strong my voice is, it’s powerless.” If you lived in a home where people were doing something “objectionable” and you were asked to keep it a secret, that message teaches you that “to tell the truth to the world is going to have a cost.”

In some households, children are expected to always be quiet. I once worked with someone who had been told by his father that his breathing was too loud and he had learned to nearly hold his breath to contain the noise which eventually caught up with his vocal health. I have seen people who lived with others who were rage-aholics. If you have a parent who screams and fights with the family, you will learn to dread loud voices and powerful vocal expressions. If you live in a household where you have no one to talk to who actually hears what you have to say or asks you for your opinion, you will feel unacknowledged.

On the other hand, if you were a child singer and you got a lot of attention for singing, you could conclude that the only time you are valuable in the world is when you sing. That would be a scary way to live. If you were someone who had to speak up on behalf of others you might keep that habit and always speak for others and that could make you a bossy control freak.

It goes on but I hope you can see my point. Being heard, being listened to, being responded to after you have spoken, is a crucial element of feeling validated and accepted. If you don’t “voice your opinion” because you think it doesn’t matter or that you have no opinion to voice, that’s not a position of positive power. If you don’t understand how to have “a voice” in your life in a way that matters, you will be unable to “speak up” on your own behalf in situations where that would be a good thing.

If you want to say something to someone else and you can’t (for any reason at all), that uncommunicated message will stay stuck in your mind and your throat until you express it. If you get “all choked up” with emotions you can’t express, or if you “can’t spit out the words” when something powerful happens to you, consider the long term effects of that situation. If you get “a lump in your throat” when you feel an urge to cry, but don’t actually let yourself cry, you have to recognize what that does to the muscles in your throat.

If your voice sounds bad to you and that makes you embarrassed or ashamed, if you would like your voice to do something beyond what it currently does, if you have been criticized for having a voice that doesn’t meet other people’s expectations, you can end up with a very bad “vocal image” of yourself that could be hard to change. That can have a profound effect on your self-esteem and your ability to function in the world.

You have a right to have the best, most wonderful voice in the world. You have a right for it to sound good, even great. You have a right to have it do what you want it to do without explanation or apology. You have a right to sing, to make music, and to use your voice creativity. You deserve being heard and listened to. You deserve having the authority to speak clearly and sing strongly. You have permission to make a “loud noise” and “let loose a joyful noise”. You have permission to enjoy your voice in all its real and metaphorical manifestations.

Do not allow your voice to be silenced. Do not allow others to take your voice away. Do not let others speak for you without your express permission. Speak up for yourself. Speak out for things that matter to you. Speak straightforwardly and with passion.

In order to take yourself more seriously, do not lie. Do not diminish your own truth. Keep your word, keep your agreements, keep your promises. If you cannot, communicate that and take responsibility about mending the fence. If you want your voice to be all that it can be, respect how it is produced in your body, put in the time to keep it in shape, and remember how important it is to honor it at all times.

Listen to others, hear what they have to say. Take in what others are saying and how they are expressing their opinions. Let yourself notice the speaking and singing voices of others. Be careful of what you tell yourself in your mind and what you write on paper to others. Think before you make sound. Once it’s out, you can’t make it go back.

Own your voice. Own what it is, how it is made, and where it goes (both inside your mind and out in the world). Speak truthfully but with compassion. Sing with open heartedness and abandon.

Honor your voice because if you do, it will serve you with honor.

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