Like the classic trope of angel versus devil bickering on your shoulders, we all have two voices that compete to be heard. One voice may be public, dominant, and assertive at times; the other, more private, guarded, and intuitive. This duality is often deeply rooted in one’s unwillingness to disclose personal experiences for fear of judgment.
Unlike the inner critic who seems to be on an endless loop of internal negativity, the competing voices I’m describing are how we choose to speak about ourselves situationally. In some cases, our public voice becomes a coat of armor, protecting against vulnerabilities. When reinforced over time, it creates the potential for internal disharmony and external incongruence. We become adept at telling our narrative conditionally, reserving our private voice for those we trust, in environments that offer familiarity, safety or unity on common grounds. Our voices become the camouflage we step behind, attempting to construct when and how we are to be regarded by others.
When you spend years building an image of strength in an effort to command people's respect, it’s easy to forget that you’re also crafting a fortress!
Instead of sharing our authentic selves—where we came from, what we’ve experienced, or what we’ve overcome—we retreat into patterns and habits that keep us from being true to ourselves and honest with one another. We become trapped behind the public voice that tells the world “I’m fine, thanks for asking.” Nothing to see here. Move along.
The repercussions of hiding behind this veneer is one of feeling disconnected - of not being heard, understood or supported by others. On the inside, we’re desperate for our truths to be heard, and that desperation manifests itself in many forms, including depression, frustration, pent-up anger, and volatile relationship patterns. We rage in the boardroom. We retreat in seclusion on the weekends. We keep up with the Joneses to prove to ourselves that we’re worthy.
Ironically, we fail to recognize that by doing all of these things, we keep our truths away from others and make it difficult to connect with them on a deeply human level.
Vulnerability is speaking truth to power, and finding power in truth.
I’m not suggesting a tell-all exposé – I’m talking about creating professional connectedness with peers, direct reports, investors, stakeholders and the likes through authentic voice as a means to develop trust, inspire others’, develop followship and nail compelling cases for action.
Life stories and experiences are a precious learning tool, they stoke curiosity and passion, they illuminate alternate paths of perseverance, and they allow us to thoroughly celebrate trial, failure and triumph. You’ve arrived at this point of your professional career notwithstanding life’s obstacles or adverse conditions. Your story is an incredibly powerful catalyst for congruence, creating connection to your passion, what you stand for, and why.
@@Your story has the power to enroll others, to galvanize support, and to create momentum.@@
I recently had the pleasure of coaching an incredibly passionate social entrepreneur—a highly educated, privileged, booming tech genius who was struggling to connect with investors. Uncompelling pitches fell flat, concept skepticism increased, and seed monies dried up. My client had a phenomenal concept, had raised significant grassroots capital, and benefitted from Ivy League backing, but something had gone awry.
As it turns out, the origin of disconnect wasn’t between the concept and investors, but between client and the authentic narrative he was withholding.
Concept inspiration was conceived of my client’s family of origin and adverse life experiences, a story of triumph and the desire to create opportunities of hope for those of similar experience. My client had become adept at asserting a public persona of privilege, an identity that evolved to adapt to a new playing field in order to be taken seriously by investors and influencers alike. In actuality, my client had effectively disconnected from that deeply authentic voice and lost the ability to articulate a personal and compelling business case.
While outwardly projecting a posture of strength, reassuring everyone that all was fine by squaring a jaw and keeping others from getting too close, my client faced an intensifying struggle between two narratives, neither of which were an authentic reflection of himself.
Choosing Relational Freedom and Creating a Scaffold between Self and Others
The process of discovery and liberating your inner voice is a continual practice of introspection—the confluence of life experiences, how you’ve made meaning of them, and portray them. Discerning the nuances of voice begins by examining how you show up in relationships. As you examine the points where you withdraw and reject connection or invest and deepen connections with others, you begin to uncover these relational blind spots and unseen areas for possibility. That awareness leads you to opportunities to build more meaningful relationships and cultivate rapport with others, with integrity at the core of your genuine identity.
The fact that you don’t have to turn your public and private voices “on” and “off” means that you’ll be able to focus all of your energy on that singular, authentic voice that’s yours (and yours alone). Availing greater opportunity for you to experience being heard, seen and understood for who you are.
Walking the Razors Edge of Vulnerability—less blueprint, more gameplan
For those who teeter on that edge, discernment, moxie, and grit are a given. Expressing your pure voice and connecting through the power of story as a conduit for engagement is not without exposure. Only you can decide what your tolerance levels are for invited criticism, doubts and judgment. Discerning risk vs. reward is often the perfect reflection point.
@@Only you can decide what your tolerance levels are for invited criticism, doubts and judgment.@@
Awareness is your calling card. Perhaps you’ve begun to recognize this internal conflict of voice and the correlating behaviors you exhibit and what impact they have on others. Maybe you’ve encountered difficulties, hardships, or frustration getting the results you desire. Have you begun to question what it is you should even be speaking about, and with whom? The invitation for deeper inquiry has been consigned.
Reconciling your voice doesn’t happen all at once. Exploring “what” it is that you need (for the sake of what or in service to whom) or want (your intention or desired outcome), is a sound approach to uncovering your foundational voice. Only once you’re able to identify the “what” can you begin to delve into the details and begin to construct the organic process of how.
The goal? To help you remove your suit of armor, so that you can begin to understand who you are without it. To create a place where vulnerabilities can open up, and where narratives can be challenged. To embrace your fearless sense of voice and get comfortable with the idea of others’ seeing you as well, just as you are.