You use your voice every day, but do you understand your voice? Do you even think about it? Do you treat it with love and respect? Does it feel better on some days than on others?
One day while at a garage sale, you see a multi-pieced jigsaw puzzle with no box. All the pieces are in a bag so there’s no picture to help you put the puzzle together. Being someone who is challenged by a good mystery you buy it.
When you start putting it together, your only guidelines are the shapes of the pieces themselves. Although it is frequently frustrating you persevere and a picture starts to form. As the picture emerges, you understand what you’re seeing.
To understand your voice is like having a jigsaw puzzle with no one picture to help you. You have to create your own.
How you understand your voice and put the puzzle together will be subjective: it will be affected by all the experiences you’ve had in your life. It will reflect your beliefs about yourself.
It will show you when you silence yourself, when you hold back who you are, where you have an opportunity to grow – if you take it.
Not every one does.
Your First Step is Willingness
I worked with one client who came to me with a very high tiny voice. She was in her twenties but sounded like a little girl. As she progressed with her weekly coaching, her voice started to change. She started to embody it, the pitch dropped naturally, the resonance of her voice increased.
Then something curious happened. She came one day and said she was going to quit.
I said, “Okay, do you mind telling me why?”
It was her family who wanted her to stop. They said it’s a waste of your money, your voice is fine, you don’t need to change your voice.
What they really meant was they didn’t want her to grow up.
She was completely aware of the choice she was making between her voice and keeping her family happy. I told her I hoped that one day she would get back to it.
Your Voice is a Lifelong Quest
Starting on a quest to understand your voice involves a willingness to see the multiple layers of it, not just the sound you make. It’s a kin-aesthetic, emotional and spiritual process as well as a physical one.
When you develop a picture of how you understand your voice, you can use that picture to remind yourself what it feels like when ALL of your voice is present.
One of my clients who was also a visual artist drew a before picture of her voice as a yappy little dog. It’s easy to see why she didn’t like her voice if she thought of it that way. Her after picture was a tall woman wearing an elegant evening gown.
Quite a change in her picture – and her image of herself.
Never Miss the Weekly Post
Another client going through a challenging time described her voice this way.
“My voice is a major aspect of the way I am in the world. It allows me to say what I need to say, to be heard, to hear myself, to think out loud, to help translate who I am and what I am about to others.
Similar to what I would imagine experiencing with a giving, loving parent, I’ve taken my voice for granted, and expected it to always be there and be what it has always been.
At the possibility of damaging it or losing the voice I have known, I felt scared, bereft, different, changed.
I want my voice whole; I want to be whole.
What if I could not laugh out loud? Sing again? Fulfill my dreams?
I will protect my voice; I will value it. I trust my voice to never let me down. Without my voice, I am still me, but not in all the glory of who I really am.”
Her picture was very different but very meaningful to her.
Your Voice is as Unique as You Are
Since you will understand your voice differently than anyone else, your way of describing it will also be unique. This is good. You don’t want to sound like someone else. You want to sound like you.
Finding your way of describing it is not a mental game. You can’t think your way to your whole voice.
You have to feel your way to your voice.
Developing your ability to understand your voice in different ways can circumvent any idea that it’s too something – too loud, too soft, too nasal, too harsh, too much, too little.
Weak voices can get stronger. Loud voices can be modulated. Whiny or nasal voices can become fully resonant.
You already have all the equipment you need for a wonderful voice. Knowing that lets the air out of bubbles of self criticism and frustration and frees you to see your voice as a gift beyond price.
As you develop and understand your voice more, you can put your mental picture of it together piece by piece.
The following are more examples from clients.
“My voice is a tree with its roots firmly grounded in the earth, so the top of the tree can bend in the wind but not break.”
“My voice has many colours, not just the little eight colour box of crayons but the sixty four colour box with the pencil sharpener.”
“When my voice works it’s like a hollow tube with a curve at the top.”
“I feel like I have a dome over the head.”
“As my voice goes up and down it feels like a bicycle smoothly changing gears.”
Each of these images made complete sense to the person who spoke of them. And they may make absolutely no sense to you. Start developing your own language and remember, there is no single right answer.
Start with these two simple questions.
How would you describe your voice now?
How would you describe the voice you want to have?
Your quest is to find your way in the gap between the two answers.