The Importance of Finding Your Voice
Everyone May Not Need To Hear From You. But You Do.
The world needs to hear from you.
Everyone has a story that needs to be shared.
Someone, somewhere, needs to hear what you have to say.
It’s a Platform, Not a Stage
These are common encouragements found easily on the web. Just Google Up that first quote and see what pops up. While I appreciate the sentiment, this is not that article. I’m certainly not here to bash that perspective, but I’d like to encourage you to look at it from a different angle.
Finding your voice is not important (at least not initially) because someone, somewhere, needs to hear what you have to say. It’s not powerful because “nobody else can say it just like you can”. Maybe that’s true, and maybe that’s not. I’m not sure. What is true, is that nobody else can say it to you just like you can say it to you. And they only voice that’s always on is our own. It’s important that we find and craft a strong one.
First, the importance of finding our voice is for us, not for someone else. This is not a selfish perspective, though at first glance it may seem that way. This is about recognizing that our voice is about a platform, not a stage. It’s not a performance for others, a place for self-promotion, or a place for us to help all of those people who otherwise may not be helped, because of our unique voice in the world.
The importance of finding our voice is first a platform on which we can stand. Finding our voice allows us to stand up and speak with authority in our career, our relationships, our homes, and in society in general. It does allow us to stand up and be heard, but not by others (not at first), but by ourselves.
We need to get a feel for how our own voice sounds. We need to try and fail with what we have to say and how we have to say it, so we can figure out what works and what doesn’t for us. Finding our voice allows us to lead, it allows us to stand up for ourselves, it allows us to love well in our relationships, and it helps us move forward in our careers, among many other benefits.
Developing our “unique” voice is important so we start to understand how we sound. It’s what we mean when we tell our kids they have to speak up for themselves. They have to tell the bully to stop. They have to ask the teacher when they need help. They need to explain to us how they feel. They need to speak to the coach on their own. Hearing themselves in those situations, when they have to say them on their own, helps them to develop their own voice. When we speak for them, they don’t get to hear their own voice, or build their own platform.
I’ve always been reserved, and at least valued the concept of humility.
I understand the issue with someone typing, “I’ve always been a humble person” so I’m trying to tread lightly here.
When I got out into the world as an adult on my own, I often struggled when I needed to stand up for myself or my family. Sometimes I still do. I had not found my voice in that area, so one of two things usually happened.
- I would just shrivel up and take it, without making any sort of stand for myself. Whoever was on the other side (hospital, bill collector, contractor, etc.) would get no pushback from me.
- I would go way too far in my pushback, and attack whoever was on the other side.
I had not developed a platform on which I could stand in these situations. I had not found my voice. I didn’t know what I could sound like when I was angry, frustrated, or challenged, so I was all over the place, and neither one was healthy or edifying for me or my family.
I’m getting better at it.
Standing Up To The Stain Guy (or, finding my confrontation voice)
A couple of years ago, we had a fence stained. The guy came by and gave us a quote, and it was a lot of money for us to spend, but it had to be done. The fence guy was very, very proud of his work. During the couple of times he came by to provide a quote and show us our stain options, he told us all about how he was booked up all the way down the coast and he was the premier fence guy in that area.
It was a little too much for me, all of the posturing, but we needed our fence stained, and the process he described sold me on it being a quality, long lasting job. He described it as sort of like pressure washing the stain into the wood, so it went all the way through. Then they would go back and brush it as well.
He and one of his employees came by, stayed for several hours, and stained the fence. We stood out in the front yard, and naturally, the fenced looked good, as it was freshly stained whereas before it was just wood. He reminded us how awesome he was, and left.
Later, as I walked around the yard, I noticed that there were several places where the stain was uneven. It was super dark on one spot and extremely light on another. Many places had drip marks, and almost all of the boards weren’t stained all the way through as promised.
Earlier in my life, I probably would have let it go. It’s not that big of a deal, and it’s better than what it was. But not this time.
When I called him back to look at it, he was defensive. I pointed out all of the issues I had, and while he pushed back on some of the things, he accepted that some areas weren’t done well, and agreed to come back and touch up.
Unfortunately, after the touch up, as I walked the yard, I noticed a lot of the same problems. When he came back out, again, he was defensive, but this time he wasn’t as willing to own up to his mistakes. He first offered me 25% off my “renewal stain” in a few years.
I don’t want a ‘renewal stain’, I’m not happy with the first stain. That’s not a deal for me.
Then, and this is the “finding your voice” moment for me, he said,
I’ve had so many compliments on this fence. Everybody who sees it loves this fence.
To which I replied,
I don’t care. This is MY fence. You sold me on the quality of your work and this wasn’t done well. It doesn’t matter to me that people drive by and tell you they like MY fence. I want it done the way you said you were going to do it.
Short story long, he redid the fence. And I found some of my voice.
To be clear, I’m not that guy who nitpicks other people’s work, and I didn’t yell or lose my cool. I just stood up for myself. And it felt good.
I got to hear myself, stand up for myself.
And that’s how we find our voice.
Finding a New Voice
We also may have to find a new voice for ourselves as we move throughout our lives.
If we change careers, we’ll have to find and develop a new voice in our new field. While some things will stay the same, others will need to change. We may know what we sounded like as a teacher, but now we are in real estate. What does our voice sound like now that we are talking about homes instead of Georgia History? Some things will remain and some will change.
We used to be a married mother, parenting with our partner. Now we are a single mom. We’ll need to find a new voice. It might sound different.
We were the assistant coach or the 2nd in command. Now we are in the first chair, leading the group. We don’t have to change drastically, that would be inauthentic. But we’ll need to find a new voice, or at least, a new part of our voice, if we are going to be leading.
Our voice may need to change from time to time depending on our circumstances. But it still needs to be our own, and we need to be intentional with making sure we know how we sound.
We Need To Find OUR Voice
It doesn’t have to be through confrontation. We need to hear ourselves speaking love into our relationships, even when it feels weird or awkward, so that the next time we want to say something special to our spouse, children, or friends, it doesn’t feel so weird or awkward. And eventually, it just feels normal.
We need to hear ourselves standing our ground at work. We need to hear ourselves speaking up as a leader.
It’s how we build our platform. And it’s how we find our voice.
Yes, we can find our voice by speaking out in the world in the hopes that we can make a difference in the lives of others. There is nothing wrong with trying and “failing” and figuring that out as we go.
My encouragement is that we first seek to find our voice for ourselves. We build our platform by stretching ourselves and finding our edge and pushing up against it in how we love, lead, challenge, and encourage.
Then, we’ll know how we sound.
Then, we’ll find our voice.
Then, we’ll be able to stand strong, not on a stage, but on our platform. and impact those around us.
I’m pulling for you,