Why We Don’t & How We Can Love Our Voices
Last month, I had the pleasure of singing with many wonderful people in celebration of World Voice Day. One thing that came up in the discussions, as it often does in singing groups, is how difficult it is to like our voices. I’d like to explore a few reasons why this happens and offer some possible remedies.
Why do so many of us dislike the sound of our voice?
1. We received negative feedback or criticism about it
2. It doesn’t sound how we think it ‘should’
3. We can hear something that we consider ‘wrong’ with it
4. We haven’t spent time getting to know it
5. We weren’t given support or tools to understand it
5 Ways To Start Loving Your Voice
1. Releasing the critic
Write a list of all the censoring, critical comments you received about your voice from parents, teachers and others. Feel into why people said these things - ignorance/ conditioning/ insecurity/ protectiveness - and let them go. Burn the list of negative comments and then write down 10 statements that feel real for you and are more loving to your voice.
2. Drop the shoulds
Do not follow the ideas of others, but learn to listen to the voice within yourself. Your body and mind will become clear and you will realize the unity of all things. - Dogen
Write a list of everything you feel your voice ‘should’ be like - then work back through the list asking ‘is this really true?’ and ‘where did this come from?’. Shoulds mostly come from outside of us - from other people, the media, education - and do not fit with who we really are.
3. Own your unique vocal qualities
During our recent interview with James Tighe on Croydon Radio, Catherine Pestano shared that the voice has been shown to be 25% more unique than a fingerprint. Many of the world’s famous voices are loved because of their unique textures which result from their individual eccentricities and lifestories rather than being technically ‘perfect.’ Billie Holiday’s unmistakable voice still enchants us because she was not afraid to express the very depths of herself. Many times we fixate about a problem with the voice - wobbles, breaks or cracks - owning these aspects of our voice as expressions of our vulnerability and imperfection allows us to develop. These vocal quirks, when explored, can become a treasure trove which reveal to us insights about ourselves and become integrated into our expressive style.
4. Listen deeply and get to know your voice
If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint’ then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced. - Vincent Van Gogh
The quality of our vocal expression is directly related to our listening for ourselves. Listening accurately to our voices enables us to discover their creative power - this is where recording can become an amazing tool. My first attempts at recording were, as most people find, very confronting - my inner critic had a ball - but I was curious and crazy about singing so I carried on. I started developing a different kind of listening where I focussed on observing rather than judging the qualities of the sound I was making - tone, pitch, texture - and how these related to my intentions. This is a deeply meditative experience which taught me more about my voice than anything else. So if you haven’t ever done this before, try recording yourself on your phone talking about something ordinary - what you had for breakfast - or singing happy birthday - and listen back a few times and watch how your perspective on what you hear changes. Developing this deep listening for ourselves allows us to extend this to others and become more attuned communicators.
5. Find inspiring sources of support
Nourishing ourselves with inspiring experiences keeps our creativity alive. The voice, like any other muscle in the body needs and improves with exercise. We would not expect ourselves to be superfit on the first day of joining a gym, so likewise with the voice it’s important to give ourselves permission to learn and grow. Finding a singing teacher/coach - whether that’s for 121 sessions or a joining a course, singing group or choir - is a great way to start. There are many wonderful resources on and offline - books, videos, audios. The important thing to remember is that however scary it might seem, ultimately exploring vocal expression is fun, enjoyable and can bring vast rewards for our self-awareness, health and wellbeing.
Wishing you all many joyful happy vocal adventures