About ten years ago, I started thinking about publishing a book. After writing my way through twenty years of various marketing and development ventures, telling many wonderful stories of others along the way, every now and then I’d start to think I had something to say. My own story to tell.
The problem was, I didn’t know how to say it. I’d spent all those years adapting to the voice of others, setting aside my own ideas, submerging myself in a particular client’s mindset and style in order to honor their voice and tell their story well.
Somewhere along the way I lost my voice.
I started second guessing what I should sound like, who I should be. Eventually I shaped this ridiculous concept (based on the comparison and envy of other folks) of what I should be, what I should sound like. And that image, that false representation of me, is the one I carried to the outside world.
Now trying to share my own story, I imagined I needed to mimic somehow those popular writers who had scores of people following them. So I tried hard to fit in, to sound like I should. But my words leaked out flat and predictable with this stiff journalistic bent.
Because that’s the sort of thing that happens when you silence your authentic self.
Thankfully since those days I’ve learned a lot about finding my voice. I’ve learned to trust my uniqueness as this is the very thing that makes me me. This unique combination of my quirks and passions, my own style and feelings and beliefs, these are the very things that set my words apart from the millions being shared daily.
I don’t know that I can pin the discovery of my voice on one particular experience, and I don’t dare suggest there’s a magic formula that suits us all. But I would love to share three of the things I’m learning along the way in the hopes they may somehow encourage you.
1. Be an original.
When we lack confidence it feels easier to imitate others, but its flat hard to pretend to be something we’re not.
So wherever you are, whatever you are writing or thinking about writing, I’ll encourage you to confront any false voices that try to convince you that you have to have it together out of the gate. Because you don’t.
Take this moment and give yourself permission to no longer compare or pretend or perform.
Then, take a deep breath and commit this day to start relaxing into your unique you. Practice, practice, practice being yourself; your true voice will eventually emerge.
2. Value your life experiences.
Perhaps, like me, you’ve walked some hard days. Maybe you’ve faced a loss, an illness, or a dysfunctional relationship? Maybe it was a crisis of faith or a dire financial situation? Whatever it was, I bet it was dark and lonely and didn’t make a bit of sense.
Here’s the thing: we can’t be afraid to say what it was like in the dark.
These life experiences often act as a catalyst, gifting us the ability to reimagine these hard days in a way others can relate to them. While we might not be able to change the way it was there in the dark, we can change the story we tell ourselves (and others) about those days.
As dark as it was, your journey to the other side holds the potential to stir a fresh hope for the person still stuck.
3. Take risks.
I’ve never been naturally courageous, but I have learned this: if I want to make a difference in this world, there are times I’m going to have to be brave.
Sharing your heart will feel risky (because it is), but an unhealthy caution will stall your voice.
Too often we don’t realize how very close we are to finding our voices.
Give your voice the room it needs to grow. Explore, pursue, and practice until your true voice becomes your natural default.
Be an original, take risks, and don’t be afraid to dream big.
Your voice is a unique and unforgettable mixture of your own personal style, perspective, and message. Surrender to it. Shape it as needed, yes, but don’t be afraid to share it.
Going Deeper: Where are you in your journey to find and use your voice? Share your thoughts and observations in the comments below.
Want more? Click here for a free 10 Tips for Finding Your Voice printable.