Losing Your Voice

A voice cannot carry the tongue and the lips that gave it wings.
Alone must it seek the ether.
And alone and without its nest shall the eagle fly across the sun
~Kahlil Gibran

Sometimes it’s easy to let your voice be heard, and sometimes it’s not. Where those moments appear is different for each person, and even changes for each person over the life course – from time to time, from relationship to relationship, from setting to setting, from topic to topic, and so on.

Photo by Yugenro

We spent a lot of time with ourselves (all of it, right?), so we may think that we know what kind of instances are easy for us to find our voices and what kind of instances are difficult. But, as with everything in life, sometimes there are surprises.

I’m, to put it bluntly, a big mouth. I have thoughts about most everything and I’m usually not afraid to share them, in written form or oral. Friends who have met me online before meeting me face to face have been surprised that I’m not bigger than I am and that my voice isn’t deeper, because my “voice” in terms of being forceful in my communication is strong. This week, however, I had two different specific experiences where I felt like I lost my voice. One fell into the category of a predictable loss, while the other was quite unexpected.

The first event related to my job.  I found myself needing to support someone’s right to speak an unpopular opinion.  Being a communication scholar, I’m rather fond of the First Amendment, so I would have not expected it to be difficult for me to find my voice about this issue.  But, because the opinion that had been expressed was very counter to my own beliefs, it was shockingly difficult, and even more so because what I needed to say went against the reactions of some others in the organization.  It was tricky and I noticed that, though I would begin an interaction with some degree of confidence, I kept quickly losing my voice and really needing to work to find it.  Interesting.

The second experience was more expected for me.  I love music, a lot.  But, I don’t sing.  I was told at an early age that I’m tone deaf, and though I don’t even really fully understand what that means, it has become a part of my understanding of myself.  I also had a friend, who I love dearly, tell me a few years ago that I sound like Minnie Mouse.  The combination of those two things has pretty much assured that I will never sing in public.  I don’t karaoke.  I don’t sing happy birthday at a party (unless I can basically just talk the words).  I don’t sing the alma mater at university events.  I do not sing in public, with the exception of at rock concerts where it is so loud that I know no one can hear me.  Thus, I was not shocked to find it extremely difficult to find my voice for chanting in Sanskrit during yoga teacher training.  I could hear the rhythm and the words in my head very clearly, but as soon as I opened my mouth, the voice that came out was soft and timid and very unsure.  Over the course of the class, I got more comfortable chanting with the group (again, hard to hear my voice mixed in with the others) but when time came for me to lead a chant, my voice disappeared again.

Having a voice, not necessarily in the physical sense but in the psychological/relational sense, is important in our well being and in our relationships in the world.  When we butt up against obstacles in finding our voices, we need to think about what is keeping us from finding that voice and what we can do to set it free.  For these two events, I’m pretty sure that the issue is my worry about how others will perceive me.  I know it, but I haven’t been able to let it go – yet.

Where do you lose your voice?  What do you think causes it?  What are you “doing” about it?



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