Awhile back I solicited feedback for a book proposal from a few friends. All of them expressed the same concern: My voice was lost in all the expert quotes. Each chapter summary featured excerpts from bestselling authors, famous psychologists, and notable philosophers. My intention was to ground my points in research and add legitimacy to my thoughts, however, all the references distracted the reader and invalidated the overall premise of the book: to find your voice.
Some people seem to be born with a finely tuned inner microphone. My daughter is one of them. At age two, she wore a patch over her right eye. When mean preschoolers in soiled diapers mocked her, she pushed back her shoulders and said with conviction, “I beautiful.” My husband is like that, too. If someone insults him, he shrugs it off and forgets about it ten minutes later.
Then there are those who emerge from their mothers’ wombs as more sensitive beings. These types may solicit and adhere tenaciously to the advice of everyone around them – mentors, teachers, doctors, friends, self-help authors, and husbands – because they don’t trust themselves. They depend on the assessment and opinions from others to navigate their course and to legitimize their place on the planet.
A History of Second-Guessing
I have been second-guessing myself for a long time. A few weeks into the school year at St. Charles Borromeo Elementary School my teacher called a meeting with my mom to express her concern that my need for feedback and assurance was abnormally high and that I had better learn how to trust my own instincts before graduating to the third grade.
Three years later, my ballet teacher said that while I showed much potential to become a professional dancer, she hesitated to place me in the more advanced classes because I was so easily discouraged.
Finding My Voice
In the last three years, I have been working on identifying and trusting my voice. By spending time in untapped meccas of healing like a horse farm and a nursing home, I have attempted to quiet the inner static that crowds out the faint whisper of truth within me. I’ve carved out moments of stillness when I can hear my wisdom and honor what it has to say.
Asserting myself and analyzing all the unsolicited and solicited advice thrown my way is not without painful side effects. I have had to rearrange every primary relationship in my life because playing another role demands new rules. Gone are the days when I absorb every piece of information without review and immediately execute orders.
Some days I wish I could go back to my former self. There was less fighting and friction, less confusion and ambiguity. It’s much easier to let someone else think for you. A substantial reserve of energy is required to sort through the feedback from a doctor or friend or teacher. It takes cognitive power to pluck out the kernels of wisdom that align with your truth. However, if you continue to live your life by a compilation of other people’s advice, you arrive at a shallow self that resembles my book proposal – fascinating facts, but no soul.
In My Own Words
Here is where I am tempted to insert some poignant quote by an expert who can back up what I am saying.
Instead, I’m going to conclude with my own words and say that although the process of finding your voice can be terribly painful at times, the reward is a sense of self that fosters peace, a solid ground that doesn’t vacillate according to the input of the hour. Your truth can change, of course, but you own it – and before you know it, you’ll be saying to yourself, “I beautiful.”
Photo by Laura LaRosa