“The authentic voice is the voice before language. For example, a baby crying before they have the words to speak.”Maryn Azoff
How can we find a voice that reflects our most truthful expression?
Think back to your earliest memories. Young children lack words and sentence structure, yet they speak with more conviction than most adults. Then something shifts as our brain forms into a more conscious state. Around age 3-4, we develop what psychologists call “inner speech.” These voices in our heads can feel like they never stop talking.
I’m told that from age 4-14, I hardly uttered a word outside of the comfort of my home. Teachers grew frustrated by my mute approach and questioned whether or not I was listening. As the middle of five boys, I can look back and understand my hesitancy. I desperately wanted to be heard but questioned whether my voice had added value. With so much noise around me, I opted for a silent, more observant approach. The truth is, I lacked any real sense of self and, thus, no ability to find “my voice.” While this is not uncommon for a pre-pubescent teen – finding our voice can feel like a losing battle, no matter our age.
Wrestling with The Inner Voices
“What a liberation to realize that the “voice in my head” is not who I am. Who am I then? The one who sees that.Eckhart Tolle
As we evolve and create new experiences, our voice grows with us. Sometimes, “finding your authentic self” can feel like commercialized spiritual jargon. To me, it’s a commitment to personal healing and self-exploration. The inner voices don’t appear from thin air. They’re shaped and fed by what we allow in: the voices of our parents, social media feeds, conversations with friends, and the list goes on…. Sometimes these experiences prove uplifting and life-giving, but they can also result in unresolved trauma or aspects of ourselves that we’d rather not face.
This “more authentic voice” has never left us. It’s buried beneath the gunk of our lives and requires intentional action that might not be natural in the flow of our week. Here’s my crack at some practical steps you and I can take as we journey towards a more authentic voice.
- LEAN INTO SELF-EXPRESSION
Expression is one of the most outstanding teachers at our disposal (& it’s free!). It challenges the voice of self-judgment and reveals a more truthful version of ourselves. This can be intensely challenging, especially if we’re out of the practice. Start by creating an intentional space for self-expression. Sing like no one’s listening, dance like no one’s watching, and write like no one’s reading. Maybe it’s in your car, a dance move before bed, or journaling freely as soon as you wake up. Whatever the case – push through the discomfort and watch as “you” emerge in new and exciting ways.
- EMBRACE DISCOMFORT AND OBSERVE HOW YOU SHOW UP
Have you ever shown up to a space where you didn’t know anyone? Breaking out of the cave of comfort is a fantastic guide for self-discovery. Traveling alone or embracing an experience with strangers is one of the profound catalysts I’ve found for growing my sense of self. In these cherished experiences, I don’t show up to meet anyone’s expectations. These environments are incredibly helpful in taking stock of where I’m at. Observe and note fear, resistance, or whatever else shows up. The more comfortable you get with discomfort, the more these fears will subside. Leaving in their place – a dynamic expression of you.
- DO THE HARD WORK OF HEALING
The reality of life is fraught with suffering – I know I don’t have to tell you that. The meaning of our life is determined by what we do next. We all are healers in need of healing. Apply this nurturing instinct to yourself – seek support and lean into the deep work. Suppressed trauma isn’t gone; it takes new forms and drifts you further from your truthful expression. It may be messy, but healing is always worth the effort. Don’t forget you have support – part of finding a more authentic voice is accepting yours where it is today. Some of the most impactful words we can utter are, “I need help.”
Your Voice Matters
I still notice the young, shy Henry boiling to the surface in uncomfortable situations or days when I step out of alignment. I catch myself mumbling as I identify with the voice that attacks my self-worth. In these moments, I do my best to accept myself where I’m at, take a deep breath and silently remind myself: “I am worthy, I am enough, I am loved.”
Be intentional about finding this voice for yourself, or the world will be glad to define it for you. Remember, friends, it’s a journey of awareness. It asks us to be patient, explorative, and willing to step boldly into the unknown. And when the time comes, speak up – your voice matters.