My confidence has increased, reality is here

September 8, 2008

I have always hated my voice.

I am not a believer in blaming my childhood for my adult woes, but there are reasons why I hated my voice. I was a very extraverted child brought up by a very introverted father, who was continually telling me to be quiet. I was a Southern middle-class child educated in a Northern comprehensive school, and my voice was wrong and mocked for being wrong. I spoke very fast and often people couldn’t understand me.

I remember how hard I would try not to say anything to the bus driver as I put down my 20p piece, so that no-one would hear my voice.

But I wasn’t silenced. It’s not possible to silence me. I have too much to say. I got more and more embarrassed about saying it, and hated myself more and more for not being able to shut up – but I couldn’t. Talking is one of the things I’m on the planet to do.

As I got older, things slowly started to shift. I discovered I could sing, which helped. I discovered that my voice might be odd but it was also sexy, and that was important to me. But I remained convinced that the way I sounded was wrong, different. I felt that my voice marked me as different, as an impostor, that people could see right through the sophisticated facade to the gauche teenager beneath. I cringed inside whenever I had to speak.

But I still talked. I talked and talked. I couldn’t help it. The more I tried to silence myself, the more I needed not to be silent.

I’ve worked on my voice almost as much as I’ve worked on my appearance. I’ve tried to slow it down, to change the timbre and the accent, to make it calmer, more modulated and controlled. I’ve done vocal exercises, breathing exercises, diction exercises. I’ve had a million singing lessons.

Then, at the end of last month, I sat down with some people to take a look at my spending plan. And they pointed out that I’m always spending money on things to make me a better person. I spend money on yoga lessons, which would be fine if I loved yoga – but I find yoga very difficult. It hurts. And similar. They asked me, ‘why are you spending your money on things that hurt?’ And they asked, ‘what do you actually want to spend your money on?”

And, without thinking about it very much, I said, “acting classes”. It was a bit of a breakthrough moment.

And today I had my first acting class. It was a revelation.

It was a revelation because I was able to admit something to myself, for the first time ever. I love performing. I am totally me when I am performing. I have believed all my life, with every fibre of my being, that I ought to be quiet. But in fact this belief is not true. I am not here to be quiet. Performing is one of the things that I am here to do.

And it was a revelation because I am really good at it. I am not the eight-year-old with the funny voice. I am an adult woman and I have talent. After I gave one of my presentations, the rest of the class was saying, ‘It’s a plant. She’s an actress, isn’t she?’

I am not writing this to be immodest, truly I’m not. This is really news to me. I kept expecting the feedback, ‘Change this, change that’. But instead I got, ‘Stop trying to change anything. Be yourself. Use your voice. It is perfect exactly the way it is.”

I don’t have the words to explain how huge this is for me.

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6 Responses to “My confidence has increased, reality is here”

  1. Calluna V. Says:

    Fabulous.

    I think you do a great job of explaining how huge it is. It *sounds* huge.

  2. Victoria Says:

    No surprise to me *at all* – despite only meeting you twice (you even look like an actress, somehow); but very glad for you! (And yes, I do read this, very regularly actually, and enjoy it very much.)

  3. Francesca Says:

    That’s quite spectacularly cheering. (Apparently my dramatic character change does not yet extend to a noticeable reduction in narcissism.)

    I do hope I’ll be in your neck of the woods at some point, although I’m not sure when. It would be lovely to see you. I think of you and wonder how things are going.

  4. Alithea Says:

    I’m not awfully surprised either but I’m very happy for you.

    I really identified with your first paragraph. I too was a middle class girl with a southern accent in a Northern comprehensive and got bullied dreadfully about my voice, especially in English classes at high school, where I basically stopped speaking unless forced to. I’m fine today, as long as I don’t have to listen to myself recorded, but I used to have a lovely reading voice (my English teacher at middle school, who wouldn’t put up with any bullying in her class, used to say I sounded like Vanessa Redgrave) and now I’m awful at reading out loud because I completely got out of the habit 😦

  5. Francesca Says:

    I wonder how many of us there are out there.

  6. Uncle Simon Says:

    I could absolutely see you as an actress, my sister once shared a flat with an actress who always said the hard part wasn’t the acting but the networking, you need to keep in touch with so many people to have any chance of landing that next part. So yes I could absolutely see you as an actress!


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