Do any of these feel familiar to you?
The expression, “find your voice” can be a figure of speech that refers to recognizing and expressing your values and passion. When it comes to how that voice is actually expressed in speech, “finding your voice” can be the physical use of your speech and finding the sound that represents you on your own terms.
“I want to sound like myself, the self that I choose, not the one that I picked up along the way. I want to own it.”
This statement clearly articulated the feelings that so many people have and struggle with and came from someone I was speaking with in a consultation for my speech coaching that specializes in foreign accented English. This person had some differences in her speech that did not interfere with me being able to understand her at all. I’m sure most people would not have even noticed that she had the influence of another language in her English. So why was she calling me to ask about what I could do for her? She knew she wasn’t presenting herself to the world the way she truly wanted to and she didn’t know how to create that option.
She described an English acquisition story that I have heard from many people - she learned writing and grammar with specific rules but speaking English, especially pronunciation, wasn’t explicitly taught so she just “picked it up” along the way by trial and error in speaking situations. She could hear the differences between her speech and the way she wanted to sound and that created a doubt. Tiny doubts can chip away at confidence and create insecurities that affect more than just speech. When a lack of confidence has a negative impact on speaking in meetings, on the phone, and presenting, it can impact a whole career.
People who learn and speak English as a non-native language are acutely aware of their language and speaking skills but they aren’t the only ones who have those feelings. The truth is, everyone could benefit from more awareness of their language, speaking, and communication skills. Everyone has an accent, they’re just not aware of it until they encounter someone who sounds different than themselves. Most people don’t think about how they are speaking until they have to give a presentation or hear themselves on a recording. When there’s a discrepancy between what you think you sound like or wish you sounded like and what you realize other people actually hear, that’s when you can make a choice to close that gap and choose how you want to sound - own it.
For this purpose, consider professional development courses or private coaching in speech, voice, presentation skills, or leadership. All of these will bring more options to your attention and help you create the speech that truly represents you.