Having an authentic voice is not something reserved only for a choice selection of successful creative professionals. We all have an authentic voice, every single one of us. Whether you are a writer, sculptor, musician, dancer, gardener, life coach, yoga teacher, chef or digital marketer.
Just swap the word voice for truth, essence, brand or style. Your authentic voice is an expression of who you are on a deep, core level and how you share yourself with the world.
Knowing how to access your authentic voice can feel daunting; it involves exposing who you really are without fear of judgment or failure. You have to be prepared to face what scares you and empower yourself through your vulnerability with courage and humility. It is that willingness to be vulnerable that speaks to others and connects them to your truth.
Of course finding your true voice can take time, it can be tempting and easier to copy others, speaking through a voice that is not your own. This will only bring short-term success if that. The truth of your experience and who you are can only come across through your voice. Readers, audiences, clients etc will know when you are wrapping your truth up in someone else’s expression. Authenticity has a quiet, resonant power that cannot be faked.
That doesn’t mean to say you can’t draw from what has come before or that you have to reinvent the wheel. It means that you are connected to who you are on a deep level and you are expressing that individuality in an honest way.
Of course, finding your authentic voice in a noisy, internet-driven world overloaded with information, images and distractions pulling you to make constant comparisons can be utterly overwhelming and disheartening.
Here are five tools to help you connect to and nurture your authentic voice in the modern world.
1. Scrap Your Fears
Get really honest about what scares you and make a list of the fears you have around expressing your creativity. The below are some common and universal fears.
You are afraid that you are..
Have no talent
Have nothing to say
Won’t make an income
Will upset your family
Will be rejected/ ridiculed/ criticised
Someone else has done it better
You won’t be taken seriously
Your dreams are not helping the world
Now, take a piece of paper and write down the following and fill in the blanks.
If I wasn’t afraid I would…..
If money were no object I would…
If I knew I was going to succeed I would….
My secret dream is…
If I had five years left to live I would…
What is the worst thing that could happen if I take this step….
Now make a list of all the gifts that you feel are unique to you. If you have trouble with this, ask yourself the following questions:
What am I passionate about?
What did my child self love doing?
What lights me up every day?
What am I confident doing?
2. Create a Bubble of You
To find out what your authentic voice sounds like, you need to get to know yourself. Make a list of 50 -100 things that you would love to do.
The list could be anything you desire to experience, from climbing Mount Everest to eating Thai street food in Bangkok, to stargazing with your lover or writing a bestselling novel. Nothing is too big or too small to go on this list.
Now make a list of 50-100 things that you would like to be.
The list could include being a good friend, being someone who regularly works out, being a fantastic cake baker or a being famous artist.
You will note that 50-100 things is actually quite a lot. You might have to dig really deep and figure out exactly what you really, truly value in life. The point of this exercise is to build a profound and lasting sense of who you are by recognising the things that you enjoy and aspire to. You want to create a bubble around you that is full of things that are uniquely you, you may discover all sorts of details that you didn’t realise you even cared about or wanted.
To take this a step further you could create a real or online collage/ vision board that includes as much of the things that you love and find inspiring as possible. There is something very helpful about actually seeing the textures, colours and images of your desires and dreams in front of you. This exercise can be immensely helpful in cementing your sense of self.
You could even create a playlist of all the music that you feel sums up the essence of you. Make a list of your favourite books, films, heroes – anything and everything that speaks to you is a part of who you are and how you express yourself.
Steven Pressfield in his seminal book, “The War of Art” says “our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.”
3. Get Quiet and Go Within
If you did nothing else, meditation would be the most effective tool in discovering your true voice. That’s because there is something so sacred about connecting to your inner self, soul or spirit. When you practice regular meditation you strengthen that connection to self and increase your inner guidance and confidence in who you are. Silent, mindful breathing even for just a few minutes each morning helps you to know and appreciate who you really are so that when you go out into the world, when you work, speak, write, create, play etc you are unconsciously doing so from that sacred space inside you.
4. Write a Letter to Yourself
Sit down and write a letter to yourself that you know nobody else is going to ever read. Write as though you are your most interested reader. Write the words that you most need to hear now or maybe the words that you needed to hear when you were a child. Write about what you feel, think, dream and hope for. Write about what makes you different, write about what makes you weird and don’t shy away from it. Embrace all aspects of yourself, all your positive and negative experiences and tendencies. Your “weirdness” is what makes you who you are.
5. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
Be willing to look at what or who makes you feel jealous or less than. If you are constantly comparing your own journey or productivity to those of others, you are setting yourself up to fail. You have to be fluid and patient with yourself, it can take time to figure out exactly what your voice is and it will change as you evolve and grow through life. A writer’s voice at 16 is very different to their voice at 36. But there will be something at the core of you which doesn’t change.
If you find toxic thoughts or feelings of envy rising in you, embrace them and work with them. Tell yourself that insecurity only comes from a fear of not being enough and you can heal that fear by turning your focus back to your own truth. If someone else’s work makes you feel jealous, force yourself to encourage and compliment them rather than criticise. Try to practice being gracious and happy for the success of others. The truth is that the more you build confidence in who you are, your unique gifts and your authentic voice, the less you will be threatened or feel the need to compare in a negative way.
You are unique, we all are. Nobody can detract from your authentic essence. It’s your job to discover that for yourself and then shine your light into the world.