I always thought that my voice would have a different sound. I thought that finding my voice would feel as though I have this new thing inside of me that is speaking and writing. It sounds a little weird and even freaky when I put that in writing, but it’s true. I expected to find something new and different.
I couldn’t have been further from the truth.
When you find your voice, you don’t find some new thing inside of you; instead you find a little more of you. You find a little more freedom to speak, express, and to let yourself be heard. You find that your voice isn’t anywhere other than inside of you or anyone else than who you are.
You’ll read and hear people talk about developing your voice. It’s true: yes, you can develop your voice — how you speak and write — and yes, the more you use it the better you will get at speaking up. But don’t look for or expect your voice to be anyone other than you and don’t look for or expect it to say anything other than what you have to say.
I’m always coming back to this. The most important question to consider when you don’t feel like you’ve found your voice is, what are the stories and who are voices that keep you from speaking? If you don’t feel free to speak — and many of us don’t — there are reasons you feel that way. Those stories need to be told and the lies within them need to be challenged.
You have something to say, and the fact that you don’t feel like you do is reason to grieve.
I struggled with this for years. I first realized it when I was studying music composition in college. My program didn’t address the idea of finding your voice as a composer, at least not intentionally. This was ok with me, because I didn’t know I was searching for it. I just knew I wanted and needed to write music. And so I wrote. And as I wrote and struggled to write, I felt like the things I created were never good enough. I felt like everything sounded better in my head, and I couldn’t get it to sound like that in real life. I wanted each piece to be epic, but many were simple.
Looking back I can see how insecurity clouded my judgement of what was good. I let my expectation and hope for creating big and dramatic music cloud my perception of the music that I actually wrote. My music was simple and had an honest beauty in it. The more I struggled, the more I let it shut me down and the more I believed that the things I was making weren’t good enough.
I was vaguely aware that I hadn’t “found my voice”, and I wanted to find it. But I didn’t know where to look.
I didn’t know that my voice was already in my music.
It was in the pieces that I was writing and trying not to write (in favor of something more dramatic). What I really needed was to listen to myself and hear the goodness in what I wrote rather than call it bad because it wasn’t the other thing that I wanted to create.
Your voice is already speaking. You just may not know it yet. The simplest and most profound definition of your voice is this: you saying something. It sounds like you. It says the things that you think about in the ways that you always say them.
“Finding your voice” is a misleading name for this process.
The real work is is wondering why you don’t like what you already have to say. The real work is letting your voice speak and to let it be good enough. The real work is letting your voice matter more than meeting the needs and expectations of everyone else (whether they are real or perceived).
Finding your voice is mostly having the courage to speak and letting it be enough.[Tweet that]
In the comments, what has been your process of finding/not-finding your voice? What has been helpful? How do you think about finding your voice? Click here to share.
Great words, Dan. I find that what holds me back from sharing my voice is thinking that I don’t have anything NEW to contribute to whatever conversation. But I think in emphasizing what you value, even if it’s not some revelation that’s going to change the world, let’s others see another part of who you are and can invite connection or reaction. Does that make sense?
I totally agree, Jeff! Thanks for mentioning it. I think the pressure to make our voices novel can be a silencing force— similar to my desire to write “epic” music. Even if what you say is not brand new it’s different because it’s you saying it how you say it. No one else can do that. And when I hear you, I want to respond. Just like we’re doing here 😉
spot on. I like this post a lot 🙂
I am in a process of writing my first workshop and have been stressing out and making it complicated, I want it to be perfect, to impress others. Even though intellectually I say I know, there is o one to impress…. when I found your article, felt each word seem speaking to what I am going through at the moment. thank you for sharing, I will reflect on it to get deeper and let go of perfection.
I’m so glad your found this just when you needed it! Say what you need to say and know that you don’t need to say anything more. Good luck with the workshop!
Interesting approach about the inner voice, I also write and writing has led me know all my voices even the ugly ones, the ones that make me procrastinate, all of them. Besides all of these voices I could hear for like more than a year a more real one, I call it “more real” because this voice hasn’t left me alone until I really did what it told me to do, and thanks to that voice I quit a very stressful job and dedicate to myself now.
I guess that I had the courage to speak and I also I let it be enough.
I love this. Thanks Kathya. I’m so glad you were able to find the “more real” voice. I’m It’s always interesting to hear how people navigate this experience. Thanks so much for sharing!
i like that last quote. “Finding your voice is mostly having the courage to speak and letting it be enough” that is my biggest hurdly. my inner critic not letting it be good enough. I am an artist and similar to your situation. I don’t like what I draw or create. It has to be this big grand awesome piece but then it doesn’t come out that way. I still have this urge to draw or create everyday but I don’t. I feel like I need a boring office job or skilled trade to make money. UGHHH HELP!!!! im tired of this.
Thanks Dan! I love how this article strips away all the additives and clears the way to pure, clean expression from your core self.
The real work is is wondering why you don’t like what you already have to say…. This is the quote I would rather tweet.it.
haha. I like that one. Thanks. Tag me when you tweet it: @dancumberland 🙂
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I have to give a toast at Toastmasters tonight on finding your voice. I’m going to use your last sentence as a quote-giving you credit, of course.
Thanks for a great article. I need it more than i want to admit, as i’m having a hard time getting speeches ready that i think are good enough to give at toastmasters.
That’s fantastic! I hope it goes well 🙂
Thanks. I am using this page to find words, ideas, and inspiration to give my granddaughter, who at the age of 10, is writing her first ‘book’. When she invited me to read what she had written, my first words were, ‘You have a voice!’ Now I am exploring why I said that.
Thanks Meri. It sounds like you’re a great support for your granddaughter!
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Hey, thanks for writing this. I’ve been looking for a good explanation of what finding your voice means, and most of the stuff is waffle. This piece really explains what I was looking to understand in a way that makes sense.
“If you don’t feel free to speak, there are reasons you feel that way”.. Thank you for this piece, it really opened up a an inner dialogue that should have started a long time ago. Sometimes all we need is the right catalyst to get the process started, to open our eyes to internal patterns and thoughts that we are so used to that we don’t even realize that they need attention and work. Everything happens at the time it should. Thank you for this post.
Thanks so much Danny! I’m so glad you found it helpful. I hope that inner dialogue work turns into some great work in the world in due time. Thanks for reading and commenting!
Good Job (nobody asks) >:)