The Art of Finding your Voice
When speaking with a friend recently, he mentioned that people want R.E.A.L. They want authenticity, originality, and vulnerability. People crave real, and real is refreshing when we do come by it, but it can sometimes seem to be a catch-22 because real doesn’t always feel SAFE, at least not in today’s world, a world where we have more stress, more demands, and less quality connection.
People want real, but yet we’re afraid to be real and vulnerable with each other. The demands of this half-tangible, half-virtual world seem to place more emphasis and pressure on appearances, perception, and expectation than on truth.
People want real, but what’s real is that no matter how old we get, the popularity contests like they existed in high school still exist and the creation of cliques still exists. The culture we live in is one that often e.x.c.l.u.d.e.s instead of includes, and we can get too easily caught up in competition and comparison, which only dampens our self-expression. We are hardwired to feel connected and to find a sense of belonging, but most people choose living an ideal or an image in order to gain that approval and attachment. Unfortunately, this lifestyle isn’t sustainable, and it’s often more lonely than one of authentic expression because it leaves us feeling empty and inadequate.
For almost 10 years I fought my own battle in authenticity, a battle of finding and owning my voice, and it almost destroyed me. I was so far removed from myself and so caught up in other people’s acceptance that it could have easily cost me my life.
I know the pain of trying to find acceptance and trying to “fit in”.
I know the pain of putting more weight on the opinions of others than on self-acceptance.
I know the pain of not knowing your authentic self.
I know the roads that pain often leads to.
I’ve seen those roads, I’ve walked those roads, I’ve felt those roads.
It was a journey of learning how to give myself the approval I so desperately wanted from others. It was a journey of learning to discover myself for the first time. My journey forced me to look past the surface and find the truth in my own voice despite the world’s constant, unrelenting attempts to get me to be or act a certain way for the sake of being likable, earning approval, or gaining more traction and followers on social media.
Today, while attachment and belonging still matter (they are essential for health and well-being), I’ve found a stronger, more stable sense of it through ownership of my authentic voice. I’ve learned how to approach myself with compassion and SELF-acceptance as well as surround myself with people who take me as I am, and it’s part of my personal mission to gently help others find and own their voice too.
4 simple tools to help you find your voice:
Defining your values is a skill that has to be developed in order to have an authentic life. It requires taking a dedicated look at your life, your passions, your actions, and your strengths. It requires you to take a moment and separate yourself from the crowd your are trying to please. Having a clear idea of your true values will allow you to purposefully maintain alignment between what you feel you need and what actions you take. Scott Jeffrey has a great online resource for discovering your values. Click here for this process.
Boundaries let the limit for where you end and where other people begin. People with poor boundaries often sacrifice personal values in order to please others and/or they let the influence of others define them. When you establish healthy boundaries, you free yourself up to choose what and who you allow in your realm of influence. You get to choose how other people impact your expression of life, and you get to choose when to say “no”. “NO” is a powerful word, and it is essential to learn how and when to use it. Used appropriately, this one simple word carries with it the potential to help you honor your personal integrity. Follow this link from Psychology Today for more information on how “no” protects your boundaries.
Meditation offers us the chance to notice and quiet negative self chatter. There is a common misconception that meditation is about being still and quiet and that you have to be “good” at it, but in reality, meditation is more about learning to be aware of the mind by observing the thoughts and subconscious programming that we are subject to throughout the day. By taking a few minutes every day, we slowly learn to be more mindful of the distinction between our deeper self (the soul), and our egoic self (the mind). It is a daily training in learning how to listen to the self, and it doesn’t require that you have to be “good” at it to do it correctly. Meditation has now become so mainstream that there are a lot of great resources available to help you in your meditation journey. The 4 meditation apps I frequently recommend are: Insight Timer, Headspace, Calm, and Simply Being.
Journaling is more than re-hashing your day to day events or clearing the mind. Journaling is an opportunity for you to have a conversation with yourself and to ask the hard questions. It is a chance to set personal goals that allow you to create a style of living for maximum well-being. The beautiful thing about keeping a journal is that there aren’t any rules! It is a blank canvas for freedom of expression. All it requires is that you take a few minutes a day or a week to sit down and explore through words, lists, drawings, etc. It is also helpful to look back on old entries every now and then to get a glimpse of when tends to stick out in your life as important enough to put down on paper. I have been keeping a journal for the past 12 years, and it has helped with personal growth, stress reduction, and physical health. Two of my favorite styles of journaling are stream of consciousness writing (writing non-stop for 5-10 minutes to see where it takes me) and gratitude journaling (making daily or weekly lists of the things I am grateful for).
Life is dynamic and we are dynamic. As various circumstances and events unfold around us, our identity grows and changes with time. As such, authentic expression is a continual process, but the more we practice finding our voice amidst the voices of others, the easier it becomes to stay true to and stand firm in what is REAL and authentic. Brené Brown is an expert in the study of authentic expression and the author of The Gifts of Imperfection. She writes that “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we actually are.” The more we embrace this daily practice, the more we allow the ripple effect of living our truth to impact not only our life, but also the lives of others.
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Structure your life with people and things that support you and your values.
Dr. Jordan Adams