Ever wished your voice was different? Or sighed when you heard it on a phone message? Or worried about a stammer? These were some of the questions I had the privilege to explore with the lovely Gemma Cairney and Dr Radha on BBC Radio 1’s The Surgery in their show Finding Your Voice (do listen in each week, it’s full of great, life affirming advice.)
One of the callers, Chantelle, really summed up for me the power of finding your voice. Have a listen here to her story.
Chantelle struggled with a stammer for years – severe anxiety around not even being able to say her own name. She hated the judgement, the anxiety, the limits it put upon her life – even when it came to answering the phone. So she took control – and in that is a lesson for all of us.
So, what did she do? As you hear in this extract “I had to change my identity, I had to change the way I perceived myself” “I had to convince myself that what I had to say is important, I had to shift from seeing myself as someone who stammers and I had to practice, to believe I had a voice. Through determination, and practice with a large dose of self-belief thrown into the mix, was able to overcome it. As Chantelle says “practice and self- belief can move mountains”
Chantelle’s story goes to show that even something as serious and neurological as a stammer can be overcome with focus and practice. If you wish your voice was different learn from this. First understand that you have a voice, that what you have to say is worth listening to. Then take steps to own your voice – learn to use it well.
There are two aspects to this. One is the mindset that with practice you can change. Simply understanding that your voice – and speech – is a very flexible instrument, and that you can change them just as easily you can change your body if you train.
The second aspect? Practice. Learning to love your voice is often about learning to use it, and of course working in the right way. It helps to find a good voice class – drama schools are a good place to look, or you might have singing lessons – the instrument is the same. Or you can learn to chant if that’s your thing – it’s increasingly a la mode and available as classes in yoga studios.
Gemma made the comment in the show that moving well helped her feel more confident and powerful vocally. That’s such a good place to start. Learn to stand well, and breathe well and you have the foundation for a good voice. Pilates, Yoga, Alexander Technique, martial arts – these will all help your voice.
I can testify to this. Once I got into the good habit of warming my voice regularly, and having 1-1 coaching on my movement, things started to change for the better. Old habits – bad posture, weak voice that I’d thought I was stuck with for life started to improve.
In the words of Aristotle “We are what we do, excellence is then not an act, but a habit”. Get practising!