By Beth Gudenrath
“A voice is a human gift; it should be cherished and used to utter fully...” ~Margaret Atwood
What is your voice? Have you ever thought about it? We've all listened to our answering machine message and thought, “Do I really sound like that?” What does it mean to be powerful, filling a space with your voice and presence, without apologizing for being you—even if it is just in “leave a message after the beep?” Your voice reveals so much of who you are and, with your permission, it is a gift of freedom to yourself and others; it can express your authenticity—your uninhibited truth.
What I’m wondering then is this: what is it to speak your mind, to say your piece, to reveal something of yourself, to affect others? Do you often find it hard to say what you really want to say? As human beings we are taught different ways to behave depending on culture and family backgrounds. As women we are taught one thing, and men, in my experience, are taught something completely different. Through this socialization, we begin to form our identity. We learn propriety and manners based on our defined roles in society. We learn what to say or what not to say. “I can't believe you actually said THAT!” Or, “Don't say THAT. It might hurt their feelings.” True. “If you can't say something nice don't say it at all.” Really? “Is that what a real man would say?” If you strip away all of these prescribed ideas, these modes of behavior, we all have one thing in common—we are human. We are all human beings with feelings, emotions, instincts, and desires, who affect and are affected by the world around us.
Imagine a society in which women are taught to challenge, dominate and be powerful by speaking up when faced with adversity; and men are taught that crying and expressing feelings is strong. Imagine if we could be “lady like”, or “manly,” but also give had permission to accept the undeniable truth and complexity of the moment—not denying any part of who we are. Allowing our true voice to be heard and the vibrancy of our beings to affect the world around us in a much more deeper and dynamic way. But let me go back and start at the beginning and tell you my own personal journey in finding my voice.
First, let's start with the definition of voice. Well, simply (or not) it is sound produced by the vocal cords. Our voice, sound, is a vibration. It's an energetic vibration that is put out into the world and gives expression to feelings, thoughts, and our sincerity in a given moment. The 'vibe' you put out can include everything in you, even your nervousness, if only you give yourself permission to accept that truth, the truth of your human experience and speak from it.
When I first moved to Los Angeles from Nebraska I was the perfect definition of a “good girl.” I did all of the right things. I tried to say what people wanted to hear. Basically, I was just plain 'nice.' I wanted to be an actress, but when I got on stage, I could barely be heard. And when something mattered to me and my character, I didn't have the tools to express myself fully. I would become quieter rather than louder, and if I really had to make a point, or if I got upset, my voice would become higher pitched or squeaky. This lack of consciousness in myself, and my body, made me run away from the situation and the story.
I detached myself emotionally and overall I was not as present as I could be.
So, I started going to voice class and began to study a technique called Fitzmaurice. I studied my breath and my body. I studied what I unconsciously do and the ways I protect myself in order to not have to deal or feel. I discovered that not only did being so even tempered not serve my art, but it also didn't help me to stand up for myself in situations I wanted to excel in. I did not know how to say no. Somehow my need to please others became more important than my truth. Which led me, unfortunately, to many bad auditions, crappy dates, and some just plain embarrassing situations.
As I started to get more comfortable in my own skin, and to gain more life experience and self- awareness, I learned that I could say NO. I could speak up! But it wasn't easy. Even to this day I find myself reverting into old habits of submissiveness when confronted with high stake situations. It could be the big audition with thoughts of being judged. It could be the sexy Italian man that just walked in the room. Whatever the circumstances might be, and believe me they sometimes come out of nowhere, all of my power, all of my practice in speaking up and owning myself can go right out of the window. I am back to being that 13 year old girl—awkward and anxious.
The good news is over the years, I have learned that I am enough. I can stand here, and feel what I am feeling, even if I don't like what it is I'm feeling, and say what I have to say. And in doing so, the person or people I'm speaking to, the audience, responds and pays attention in an entirely different way. Their humanity senses my humanity and there is a recognition that happens in this exchange. The powerful thing is that the voice can allow you to touch someone. Not literally reach out and grab them, but affect the person you are talking to on a level that even their conscious mind might not know. If you allow your humanity to be present in yourself and your voice, the other person, or the group you are speaking to, will feel and perceive your point. Your voice will come across more effectively and deeper than even words can express. You become compelling. You become dynamic, vibrant, energetic, and thus, more resonant. That is power. That is truth. That is being alive! And that is what we are.
Studying my body, my breath, and my voice throughout the years with Fitzmaurice Voicework, and now teaching it, I've evolved. I've grown up and become an adult. (When did that happen!?) I've unleashed this effective and penetrating voice as an actress, as a teacher, and as a woman. I have the tools to truly exist and be present. To not only live in this world and survive, but to make a difference; to take each step deliberately along the way; to walk into the unknown and be ME, in a whole, omnipotent way.
“Once you've found your own voice, the choice to expand your influence, to increase your contribution, is the choice to inspire others to find their voice. Inspire, means to breathe life into another. As we recognize, respect and create ways for others to give voice to all four parts of their nature--physically, mentally, emotionally/socially, spiritually--latent human genius, creativity, passion, talent and motivation are unleashed. It will be those organizations that reach a critical mass of people and teams expressing their full voice that will achieve next-level breakthrough in society.” ~Stephen Covey
For information on Fitzmaurice Voicework, www.fitzmauricevoice.com For class info: firstname.lastname@example.org
*Please note that not all experiences, ideas, and beliefs are shared by each member of The New Hollywood. We are a group of shepards, not sheep.