Do you hate the sound of your own voice? It turns out you’re not alone, and yet it’s such an important part of our identity…
I may talk a lot about physical appearance, but rarely have I stopped to consider the importance of voice when it comes to body confidence. So it was quite an eye-opener for me this month when I attended a webinar about the power of your voice.
Apparently, our voice is as unique and distinct to us as our fingerprint, and it is responsible for a variety of different sounds: talking, shouting, screaming, whispering, humming, singing, laughing, grunting, crying. There are many elements involved in the way we speak such as volume, pitch, speed, warmth, and intonation, all of which can be used to add meaning and emotion to the words we use. If you’ve ever lost your voice, you will be very aware of just how important it is in everyday communication.
Voice and identity
And yet, how many of us actually like the way we sound? Very early on in my corporate career, I attended a presentation skills training course where we had to be filmed and the playback then used to facilitate awareness and improvement in how we put across our points to an audience. At the time, I remember being more horrified by my voice than how I looked!
Senior leaders, politicians, and other public speakers often undergo voice coaching to hone their speaking skills. It’s a widely known fact that Margaret Thatcher learnt to slow down and deepen her voice in order to be taken more seriously.
When we meet and interact with people, our identity and messaging is a complex mixture of voice, appearance, body language and the way we interact with our surrounding environment. During the pandemic, video calls replaced a lot of face-to-face engagement, and suddenly we lost a number of those cues as we were reduced to talking heads on a screen. Our voices became even more important.
It’s worth noting that voice is embodied, which means it comes from within our body. Other people’s voices are received into our bodies, translated into meaning by our brains through the complicated physiology of our outer, middle and inner ears. It’s the only form of communication that travels from the inside of one body to the inside of another – in that respect, it’s far more intimate than skin to skin contact!
Accepting your voice
Being able to tolerate the sound of your own voice is probably the highest form of self-acceptance. However, it’s really all about familiarity. In the way that we often don’t like seeing ourselves on photos or video, so we also don’t like hearing ourselves on a recording. And this is because what we’re seeing and hearing are unfamiliar to us.
We’re used to seeing ourselves in mirror image form so, unless we’re completely symmetrical (which pretty much no-one is!), we look unfamiliar on film media. Likewise, the version of our voice that we hear in our head when we speak will be different to what it actually sounds like when it’s outside of our head. In both cases, what we’re experiencing is simply how others see and hear us, so really it’s just a matter of getting used to it.
Take a moment now to think about your voice. How do you feel about it? What’s your relationship to your voice? Does it align with your inner core? Does it represent you in the way you would like? Is the way you feel about your voice holding you back in any way?
If you’ve ever been told to keep quiet or that you can’t sing, the view you have of your voice is probably damaged in some way. You may have some beliefs about your voice that are limiting you, just as you can have limiting beliefs about how you look. Work on replacing those with much more enabling beliefs.
The essence of true body confidence is self-acceptance – being okay with who you are and embracing your body as it is. Your voice is an important and, indeed, integral part of your physical body so, by definition, you also need to accept and embrace how you sound. But you can go even further than that. Make your voice an instrument that conveys the ease and confidence with which you are able to be yourself. Use your voice to express warmth and compassion towards others. Allow your voice to work for you as part of your body confidence strategy.
If you would like to talk to me about developing your own body confidence strategy, please book a free consultation.