Finding My Voice

It’s always nice to find out that you’re not alone. This recent article helped me to feel this way by revealing how women face discrimination because of our voices.

I’ve been told on more than one occasion that I have a little girl voice (always by older men). In addition, I have received unsolicited and unwelcome coaching about how I could improve the tone of my voice by making it richer, deeper – more masculine.

Ironically, when I sing, my alto voice is much stronger than my soprano voice. If you’ve ever heard me speak, you might even be surprised that I can hit those alto notes (in fact, I can also hit some tenor notes too!). So it’s not that I’m not capable, or that I don’t have it in me – it just isn’t what comes natural to me. When we do things that agitate what feels natural and right, and takes us out of our comfort zone in a nonconstructive way only to please other people, it sets us up to be extra self-conscious and prone to making mistakes; it may even lead to violating other aspects of who we are.

This article just offers one more example of how male models of leadership dominate (as only male models of leadership could do). Let me say this as loud and clear as my so-called “little girl voice” will allow: the only way to dismantle such domination is to consistently remain true to who we are despite other people’s prejudice.

How to Sell Yourself without Selling Out

I hate talking about myself. When I’m asked to share even superficial details about my life, I feel my fists (and teeth) clenching as my gaze drops to the floor. I guess people think something about me is interesting – and I’m flattered, really I am – yet, I can’t help but feel a little to a lot uncomfortable with any form of prompted self disclosure.

Yet, I’ve found it to be really helpful to not just talk about myself but – gasp – promote myself so that people can understand how I can help them develop and realize their goals and while also making things a little bit easier for them. I really do have a lot to offer; why is it that I feel an icky feeling in the pit of my stomach when an opportunity to share comes my way?

It’s because most models of networking and self promotion are just downright sleazy. And we’ve all been a victim of sleazy people who only care about promoting themselves and making money at the obvious expense of everyone else and values that you’d think are common sense. They stretch the truth or shift their focus to things that in the long run really aren’t all that important. There has to be a better, more sincere – and more comfortable – way.

Think of selling yourself as creating connections and sharing your many resources to create positive changes. If you don’t sell yourself, nobody will ever know who you are or what you have accomplished. Your example can be an inspiration to others, and your gifts can directly benefit people, organizations, and communities – if they are activated through dialogue and subsequent action.

Selling yourself is offering who you are and what matters most to you to the world. Not everyone will be interested. In fact, some people might really disrespect you for just being who you are. Focus only on the people who are open to learning about you and what you do – people who care and with whom you might share a genuine connection.

 

And to make sure you’re not a hypocrite, extend the same to others. Open up to them and listen to understand who they are and how they serve in the world. Selling yourself isn’t about compromising your values or making other people feel sick because you are overwhelming them. It’s about communication and creating opportunities for meaningful relationships to begin.