Thursday, March 3, 2011

Finding Your Voice

The movie The King’s Speech swept the Academy Awards last weekend, winning best picture, best actor, best director and best original screenplay. It has resonated with a lot of people, myself included, and I’m not surprised as it raises one of the most basic human dilemmas- how to find your boldest, most authentic voice when you are confronted with doubt, both from the inside and outside.

The movie tells the story of King George VI who was suddenly forced into the spotlight at a time when live radio was the new mode of communication. He had debilitating doubt that manifested as a nasty stutter. He could barely utter a full sentence in front of a crowd and the stakes were high, as war loomed and the people needed his leadership. It’s an inspiring story because it is real, honest and optimistic.

The King’s Speech tapped into some of my demons and I want to share some of my story in the interests of inspiring anyone who feels any self limiting doubts, to persist, find your voice and overcome the doubt. The possibilities are so much more powerful than the doubts.

This is how it happened for me. Like King George VI my demons involved public speaking. It came to a head for me on Anzac Day in 2001. Anzac Day is an annual celebration in Australia and New Zealand, honoring those who fought in WWI. It is an occasion marked, often outdoors, by early morning memorial services. Even though I had no official role, I attended a dawn service while running a church in Auckland. It turned out I was way too relaxed this particular morning. With the event underway and no padre in sight I was spotted and handed a microphone. I was told to pronounce the official Anzac blessing in front of a crowd of 10,000 people, and broadcast live on National Radio. I stood in front of the massive crowd. It was a little like the opening scene in The King’s Speech when the future King had to speak to a massive audience at a sports stadium. I had no idea of the words to any official Anzac blessing. As I turned to ask the MC whether there was some particular words to be used he said, "Right, you're on in three seconds!"

You wouldn’t believe the anxiety of those three seconds. My mind went crazy and my heart galloped like a runaway horse, only there was no escape for me. Three seconds felt like three hours. I heard the voice of my eighth grade teacher after I gave a presentation to the class, "You can’t do this. You will never be a public speaker." It was like my life was flashing before my eyes. I thought about everything except what it was I was actually going to say.

As the numbers counted down- three, two, one ... I was on! I stood frozen in front of the microphone for a split second then opened my mouth still with no idea what to say. To this day I don't know what I would have said, because just before a sound came from my mouth, I heard the voice of the padre who had arrived and was speaking now from a microphone in a different part of the crowd. Phew! That was close. I could safely say it was the largest crowd I almost spoke in front of.

For many years I could not even imagine being a public speaker. As a 15 year old, I stuttered and spluttered my way through school presentations, kept my head down hoping no one would notice me and was generally typecast as being shy. I was told by vocation advisers that whatever I did with my life, and this would probably not be much according to them, it should NOT involve public speaking. I developed my own noisy voice of doubt that was drowning out my self belief. When public speaking became an inevitable part of my life goals, I had to overcome this voice of doubt and find my true voice. I discovered that a large vision can overcome all sorts of doubts and limitations. I now feel VERY comfortable in a public speaking role. I look forward to it. I know exactly what I want to say most of the time, and feel confident that I can say it clearly.

Teachers and parents sometimes say discouraging things that stick with you, don’t they? At least some do. I’m sure I have unintentionally slipped some self doubt into the minds of my kids. We often speak without considering that words remain lodged in young heads for years to come. Mindless comments become haunting echoes of past failures. They feed a self limiting sense of self and speak up in your mind at moments of great opportunity saying "I am not good enough. I can’t do this.” We all have these self limiting ‘I am' statements. I am a burden, I am useless, I am hopeless, I am stupid, I am weak, I am guilty etc.

Our voice of doubt gorges on these statements like a zoo animal at feeding time. It laps up these critical messages and lives down to them. 'I am not good enough' could be the anthem of the voice of doubt. It prefers that you don’t claim your voice of power because small is more manageable and inner conflict feels comfortably familiar. But you know you are destined to be more than this. This feeling of moving into my destiny is part of what allows me to transcend the self limiting voices of doubt. I have a large vision for the world to be a more abundant place, full of people who claim their own place and voice. My vision demands a personality and presence that is sometimes larger than I am ready to believe I can offer. But I am compelled forward and demand that of myself because this is what my true voice is calling for. I am here to learn what I am teaching. Abundance is discovered in self discovery. Fear is overcome in personal risk taking.

I believe that all people can transcend the self limiting voices and find the voice of abundance and power. I urge you, in the words of Barbra Streisand, “to discover you, what you do, and trust it.” What an awesome thought. Focus your time and energy on things that nourish your true self. Trust your voice. Maybe you can’t imagine transcending the voice of self judgment and doubt. Let your vision for a life of abundance drown out the voice of doubt.

My favorite scene in The King’s Speech was when the speech therapist blasted loud music through headphones while King George read from a script. While the music drowned out his active voice of doubt, he read flawlessly. Once the music stopped, his stutter resumed.

Do you have any lingering voices of doubt? What is the noise in your mind that is crowding out all the possibilities for you to live your full potential? Is it the timid voice of self doubt, the precocious voice of skepticism or the winy voice of perfectionism? Beat them at their own game. Drown out the sound of their doubt with the far louder sound of your vision.

Uncover the real blocks to your highest potential, suspend and heal the voices that limit you and set about being all that you can be. After all who are you NOT to be gorgeous, fabulous, talented and abundant in all things? Manifest your highest vision. Raise your sights, raise your optimism and raise your glass to a life of abundance. Speak your truth. Find your voice, your King or Queen's speech, your defining moment where what you care about, who you are and what the world needs coincide. You have something valuable to say and the rest of us are ready to hear it. Visualize yourself standing before a sports stadium full of people waiting for your encouragement. Picture yourself about to receive an Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement in being abundantly authentic. Step into your power, stand at the podium of life, give thanks for all who have helped bring you to this moment and give fearless voice to your truth. This is your moment. Celebrate the joy of being you. YOU ARE. I AM. It’s not where you will be tomorrow, but it is perfect for today. As you find the joy of authentic self expression, you will find your voice effortlessly like a Susan Boyle performance or a Martin Luther King speech.

Please visit Soulseeds for resources that build confidence and help you find your voice.

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