HELP I Hate My Voice But I Don’t Know What to Do About ItApr 06, 2021
Why Your Voice Sounds Different in Your Head
“I hate my voice.”
If you’re somewhat normal, you’ve probably said these words: and maybe even out loud.
What you mean is that you hate the sound of your voice when you hear it played back on a recording device.
I’d venture that the average person doesn’t spend any time thinking about the acoustical differences between the “voice in their head” versus the “voice in the world.” Nor do we give any thought to how intrinsically our identity is tied to our recognition of our voice.
By this, I mean that we use our voices, and we understand them as “us” (self) - through no real filter. We quite literally hear our voices in our heads - the vibrations of your voice’s production (phonation) and then building up (resonance) on its way out of your head sounds and feels like ‘you’.
But you are operating in an echo chamber, quite frankly. You are experiencing your voice in a way that no one else will ever be able to. The vibrations moving through the various cavities in your throat and head, the way the sound shapes as it leaves your mouth - that is unique AND private to you. There is simply no way another human can experience this, just like no one can feel your feelings or feel your pain.
So when you hear your voice “out loud” - meaning after it’s left your body - played back on a device, it sounds utterly foreign. It is a different pitch, it has different qualities (you might say it’s “squeaky” or “mumbly” or any other of the ‘highly scientific’ adjectives used to describe voices), it is not you.
It’s that dissonance that sets people off and sends them down the “I hate my voice” road.
What Do Other People Hear?
Women are particularly (in my experience) judgemental about their voices. No doubt this is because it is an extension of their identities, and it’s something that snakes out into the world like a tentacle - touching, tasting, manipulating the world, but not in a way that many women recognize as skilled, valid, or (most importantly) under their control.
In deciding that your (recorded) voice sounds “bad” (an arbitrary distinction), you are likely operating with little to no actual knowledge about how the voice works, how people experience your voice, and how voice can be manipulated to affect the audience way you desire. (I know, I know: you don’t desire to affect your audience - you don’t WANT an audience at all!!).
The weird dissonance experience of hearing your recorded voice can be deeply unsettling because you don’t recognize yourself - it’s alienating. But remember: this is the ONLY voice other people have EVER heard from you. It’s not weird: it’s YOU.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Exposure Therapy? It’s a psychological treatment that helps people confront their fears (things they avoid, have a reaction to, etc.) in a progressive way, leading to desensitization - and therefore, an ability to better manage the situation/fear. Your voice - and hearing it - needs some Exposure Therapy in order for you to start recognizing - and being comfortable with - this aspect of your being.
Why We Don’t Do Anything About This Hate
Most of us aren’t hyper-aware of our spoken voices in day-to-day transactions, conversations, and so forth, but when it comes time to perform, present or otherwise speak in public - or even just thinking about our voices more directly -, our hate of our recorded voice AND our discomfort with our “speaking voice” conflate, and you have yourself a nice little perfect storm.
The challenge is that - by the time this moment arrives - it’s too late to make any real changes or improvements. So, we beat ourselves up, panic, freak out, make do, and so on, and get through the moment in time (and sometimes that means making excuses and avoiding the moment - and the opportunities the moment offers you). But do we do anything AFTER this happens, to prevent the same thing from happening NEXT TIME?
You know the answer. No.
Why? Because the thing that could pay you the greatest dividends - really listening to your recorded voice (this is the Exposure Therapy piece) and then working with, adjusting it, maybe improving it (with the help of a coach that knows what’s what), and then re-recording it? (and working the process over and over) requires TWO things you’re unlikely to want to do:
- Really listen to your own voice - over and over - and not default to “I suck”, straight out of the gate, and...
- Have enough motivation to actually think about what you want to say and how you want it to sound BEFORE DOOMSDAY (the day you need to speak).
Like I said: you’re normal.
But as a result, you are also robbing yourself (and the world, frankly) of the possibility that your words should be heard. You’ve decided as a fait accompli that you aren’t worth listening to - even though you might still have to go through with the speaking event or presentation. You sabotage your potential. And you’re wasting people’s time - you’ve decided that you’re not worthy, but you STILL take the time from the audience - time, incidentally, that none of you can ever get back.
Further, in showing others your active sabotaging behaviour, you’re modeling for all of those people who look to you for inspiration, guidance, mentoring, and so on, that that’s okay.
And it’s not.
Owning Your Voice is a Choice
So make yourself a promise: start recording yourself now. Listen, be analytical - but NOT judgemental. If you don’t like something about your voice (beyond the basic acoustical differences of “inside your head” and “outside your head”, which you can do zero about), then do something about it. Take a course. Hire a coach. Read a book. Watch some videos. Work on change now, before you HAVE to speak or present, and you’ve run out of time and you’re stressed anyways.
For now, remember this: don’t just avoid and complain - young women are watching you - listening to you.
What do you want them to hear?
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