On Finding Your True Voice
When I was in my early teens and through high school I held a pretty regular job as a babysitter. I loved it. I got to do all the things that weren’t acceptable for a teenager (pshh whatever that means), like finger painting and turning your food into fun (ants on a log anyone?), didn’t have to worry about serious discipline (the age old, don’t make me tell your mother about this worked pretty well), and best of all, got paid for every minute of it (good money for a teenager too!).
The work was pretty regular so I would often be on the phone with the parents of the families I sat for, scheduling and figuring out details and such. Back in those days we only had a land line which meant my younger sister was often privy to many of these conversations. One day she caught me off guard when she asked why I sounded different when I talked to the families whom I worked for. This is how the conversation went (insert snarky teenage voice now):
Sister : Why do you sound weird when you talk to Mrs. Snyder?
Me : What’re you talking about? I don’t sound weird.
Sister : Yea, you sound weird. Like you’re trying to be all fancy or something. Just talk normal.
Me. : I am talking normal. Why don’t you mind your own business anyways.
Sister : Whatever. You sound weird. Why don’t you just talk like yourself. It’s like you have a babysitter voice and then your real voice. Just use your real voice all the time.
Me : You’re just jealous because you can’t work yet. Mind your own business! (Or something to that effect said with major drama and exaggeration)
She didn’t bother me after that but her comment stuck with me and is something I’ve considered even after my babysitting days were over because she was right. I did change my voice. In fact, I altered a lot of who I was and how I acted when I was around other people. And it wasn’t just the families of the kids I would babysit for.
It was everyone. Because the truth was, I didn’t know who I really was.
And even worse, I was afraid to show any parts of my personality that didn’t fit with the good-girl image who I thought I should be. I was terrified to show any part of me that didn’t fit inside the box I had constructed for myself (because what if “they” didn’t like me), to laugh at an inappropriate joke (because that would mean I understood it and was the type to laugh at “that kind of humor”), to say that I didn’t want to do my schoolwork (because that would mean I was lazy - good girls aren’t lazy), or to say that I wanted an extra slice of dessert (because that wouldn’t fit with the ultra-in-control persona I had built up around me).
So why am I telling you all of this? Because it sucked. Really bad.
I carried on like that for so many years that when it did finally come time to figure out who the real me was I had no idea where to even start. I had spent so much of my life (literally decades) trying to be things for other people that I had no idea how to be things for myself.
I’m much farther along the path now than I ever have been before this point, but it took me a lot of figuring out before I could get here.
Wanna know how I did it?
OK cool. Let’s talk about the five questions you have to HONESTLY answer if you want to get to know the real you:
1. What do you LOVE to do? (What is the one thing (or maybe multiple things) you do that makes the time fly and feel like you’re on the top of the world)
Connected to this, what qualities do you exhibit when you’re doing this thing? Are you creative, whimsical, confident, analytical, persistent .. etc?
2. What do you HATE to do? (When you’re doing this thing you feel like you want to crawl out of your skin and time seems to go backwards instead of forward)
3. Imagine the most successful vision of yourself. (What qualities does the person living that life exhibit on a day in and day out basis? How does she respond to conflict or things not working out how she thought they would?)
4. When you’re feeling ultra sassy and confident and loved on from all directions, how are you behaving? (What are you doing and who are you with that is making you just FEEL yoself?)
Once you’ve answered these four questions it’s time to close the gap between where you’re at now and what you imagined in questions 3 and 4 and then put them into play because sustainable change only happens through inspired action.
In the beginning it’s important to start slow, especially if you’re not even sure where to start (keep coming back to Question 1 over and over again until you don’t have to ask yourself anymore). With the vision of your ideal self (and life) front and center in your mind, what actions can you take TODAY to start increasing the things and feelings you desire to do, have, and be?
What is one specific thing (doesn’t matter how big or small) you can do today that will bring you one step closer (even if it’s a baby step)?
As you begin down this journey of peeling back the layers of the true you, remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and it is often a course that you get to repeat again and again until it finally sinks in and you know it like the back of your hand. Embrace the journey and the peeling back of one layer at a time.
For me, when I first started realizing how much I was tuning into other people instead of tuning into myself, one of the biggest changes I made was to stop molding my schedule to other people’s lives. I made a conscious commitment to myself that I would only attend events that I truly wanted to or felt would value me, not because I felt like someone wouldn’t like me or think less of me if I didn’t go. It was a small step in the right direction and was an easy way I could jumpstart my journey!
I’m curious as to what your one action step is that you’ll commit to taking today? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Can’t wait to hear from you.