According to speech and language therapist, Lori Lynn, when it comes to finding our authentic voice, it is important to forget what we think a voice should sound like and focus on finding a voice that truly reflects us as an individual. Here she shares her expert insight.
I am regularly inspired by the people with whom I work. During conversation, they often express their thoughts in ways that are almost poetic and I feel privileged to have been able to play a part in helping them to find their authentic voice.
My client Robin explained it best: “When I first started the process of vocal coaching, I was genuinely worried that I wouldn’t be able to adopt a more feminine voice, or that I would end up sounding like a caricature. What I wanted was something that sounded natural and relaxed which is what I have achieved.”
So what is authenticity? And how does this concept relate to the sound of a voice? A quick Google search highlights many discussions of what it means to be authentic. Put simply, something is authentic when it is not a copy of something else. It is an original. Authenticity means being true to yourself, your personality, values, and spirit, regardless of the pressure that you’re under to act in a certain way or according to certain stereotypes.
Voices are like fingerprints – each is a unique identifier and a direct result of the combination of physiological, emotional, psychological, environmental and social influences which make up each individual. Just like the concept of gender should not be dictated by the cis-normative binary, an authentic voice should not need to be determined by cisgender vocal stereotypes.
It is easy to understand how our desire to be accepted can override the achievement of vocal originality. However, it is the combination of sound signal, speech patterns and even dialect that make your voice uniquely yours. There is no perceived ‘standard’ that has to be met, the goal is to find a place where you are comfortable.
Many people, whether cis or trans, struggle with self image and how that fits with society’s portrayal of how they should look, behave and sound. This pressure of meeting the ridiculously high standards perpetuated by social media has been proven to wreak havoc on our mental and physical health. It is not up to anyone else to dictate our perceptions of what it means to be a beautiful, valued and accepted member of society.
What are my top tips for finding your authentic voice?
- Do not be afraid…to be different. Don’t be guided by cisgender vocal stereotypes. Create a voice on your own terms, because you are not an imposter.
- Know your voice. Determine what you like about your voice, as it is, and keep it.
- Experiment. Just like when shopping for clothes, find your natural style. You may like to try something a bit unusual, out of the ordinary, or even daring.
In doing so, you can…
- Identify your extremes. I’m a big fan of exploring the extremes of vocal abilities, then relaxing back to find a more comfortable and appealing zone. It helps you to feel and hear your voice and realise what it can do.
- Go for comfort. Just like those well-worn jeans and comfortable shoes, your voice needs to feel good. Try it on for size, give it a twirl and see how it fits.
- Go for functionality. Your voice needs to serve you in all situations, environments and circumstances. It needs to be heard over background noise. It needs to express your emotions. It needs to meet the demands of your day.
- Get feedback from people you trust. Your friends and family know you. They may even know some aspects about you of which you are less aware.
What tools can we trust to help us keep our voice goals realistic, achievable and authentic?
- Acoustic analysis of vocal signals provides objective, concrete data which conveys how a voice is behaving.
- Feedback from professionals can be a source of trustworthy perceptual analysis.
An experienced voice specialist or speech and language therapist can help guide you in the process of voice modification. We provide the expert perceptual analysis of your voice and acoustic data to give you scientific measurement of progress. We help you discover how you can use pitch, resonance, quality, prosody, pacing, vocabulary and non-verbal communication to create not only your authentic voice, but also your authentic communication style.
Most importantly, trust yourself, love yourself and find comfort in your own authenticity. You do not have to conform to a stereotype, you can be your own unique self.