by DOREEN DOWNING on JANUARY 16, 2009
The inner voice, coming from essence, is the natural voice. And what is the sound of this natural voice? During the formative years, many children learn to fear their authentic expressiveness. They suppress themselves and learn to speak so that they can fit in and be accepted. They forfeit their true nature as they are shaped more by outer rather than inner forces.
Parents are usually the first to welcome the voice of the child. They repeat back the baby’s gibberish with approval, and the infant has its first lesson in pleasing the grandest figures of all. Speak so that others respond positively, the infant learns, and everything will be right in the world.
As children move into the classroom, teachers take the place of parents and offer a new approval system—grades. The A’s and the F’s further reinforce the distinction between what is right and wrong to say. In addition, they represent the power placed on evaluations made by an external, higher authority.
Thus we orphan our real voices and change in order to get along, be accepted, and remain comfortable. This fact underlies the fear of speaking. It is a reluctance to be real and the insecurity about living from that authentic core that makes people afraid to stand up and speak in public.
To find and re-connect with your authentic voice requires a safe haven. Choose a group in which you can freely express yourself without fear of criticism. Surround yourself with listeners who can focus positive attention and affirm who you truly are. Avoid conventional techniques where you work on improving your performance and, instead, look for a group that celebrates your natural aliveness. An inspired learning environment is one which gives you permission to develop at your own pace and in your own style. Make certain that the emphasis is on learning how to be yourself and how to connect to others in a genuine manner.
Remember there is a pure sense of self within everyone, and that this essential self has a voice. No matter the disconnection over time, you can reclaim that voice. It has always been there and simply needs to be welcomed back into the world. Let go of pretense and reveal yourself to others. In the presence of those who give you only appreciative feedback for your true nature, you can gently move toward and transform your fear. Anxiety will dissolve naturally and your confidence will build effortlessly. Supported by a group of non-judgmental listeners, you can re-discover your authentic self. Finally, there is a safe place to be who you are. From this essential core, you speak with true fearless joy.
Doreen Downing, Ph.D., licensed Clinical Psychologist, specializes in treating anxiety arising from the fear of speaking. She is Training Director of Speaking Circles International. She leads Speaking Circles on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday evening of each month in Berkeley, California