Finding Your Authentic Voice

September 6th, 2011

How do you find your boldest, most authentic voice when you are confronted with doubt, both from the inside and outside?

The movie, The King’s Speech, tells the story of King George VI who was suddenly forced into the spotlight at a time when live radio was the new mode of communication. He had debilitating doubt that manifested as a nasty stutter. He could barely utter a full sentence in front of a crowd and the stakes were high, as war loomed and the people needed his leadership. It’s an inspiring story because it is real, honest and optimistic.

The King’s Speech tapped into some of my demons and some raw memories, and I want to share my story here in the interests of inspiring anyone who feels any self limiting doubts, to persist, find your voice and overcome the doubt. The possibilities are so much more powerful than the doubts.

This is how it happened for me. Like King George VI my demons involved public speaking. It came to a head for me on Anzac Day in 2001. Anzac Day is an annual celebration in Australia and New Zealand, honoring those who fought in WWI. It is an occasion marked, often outdoors, by early morning memorial services. Even though I had no official role, I attended a dawn service while running a church in Auckland. It turned out I was way too relaxed this particular morning. With the event underway and no padre in sight I was spotted and handed a microphone. I was told to pronounce the official Anzac blessing in front of a crowd of 10,000 people, and broadcast live on National Radio. I stood in front of the massive crowd. It was a little like the opening scene in The King’s Speech when the future King had to speak to a massive audience at a sports stadium. I had no idea of the words to any official Anzac blessing. As I turned to ask the MC whether there was some particular words to be used he said, “Right, you’re on in three seconds!”

You wouldn’t believe the anxiety of those three seconds. My mind went crazy and my heart galloped like a runaway horse, only there was no escape for me. Three seconds felt like three hours. I heard the voice of my eighth grade teacher after I gave a presentation to the class, “You can’t do this. Whatever you do with your life, you will never be a public speaker.” It was like my life was flashing before my eyes. I thought about everything except what it was I was actually going to say.

As the numbers counted down- three, two, one … I was on! I stood frozen in front of the microphone for a split second then opened my mouth still with no idea what to say. To this day I don’t know what I would have said, because just before a sound came from my mouth, I heard the voice of the padre who had arrived and was speaking now from a microphone in a different part of the crowd. Phew! That was close. I could safely say it was the largest crowd I almost spoke in front of.

For many years I could not even imagine being a public speaker. As a 15 year old, I stuttered and spluttered my way through school presentations, kept my head down hoping no one would notice me and was generally typecast as being shy.  I was told by vocation advisers that whatever I did with my life, and this would probably not be much according to them, it should NOT involve public speaking. I developed my own noisy voice of doubt that was drowning out my self belief. When public speaking became an inevitable part of my life goals, I had to overcome this voice of doubt and find my true voice. I discovered that a large vision can overcome all sorts of doubts and limitations. I now feel VERY comfortable in a public speaking role. I look forward to it. I know exactly what I want to say most of the time, and feel confident that I can say it clearly.

Teachers and parents sometimes say discouraging things that stick with you, don’t they? At least some do. I’m sure I have unintentionally slipped some self doubt into the minds of my kids. We often speak without considering that words remain lodged in young heads for years to come. Mindless comments become haunting echoes of past failures. They feed a self limiting sense of self and speak up in your mind at moments of great opportunity saying “I am not good enough. I can’t do this.” We all have these self limiting ‘I am’ statements. I am a burden, I am useless, I am hopeless, I am stupid, I am weak, I am guilty etc.

Our voice of doubt gorges on these statements like a zoo animal at feeding time. It laps up these critical messages and lives down to them. ‘I am not good enough’ could be the anthem of the voice of doubt. It prefers that you don’t claim your voice of power because small is more manageable and inner conflict feels comfortably familiar. But you know you are destined to be more than this. This feeling of moving into my destiny is part of what allows me to transcend the self limiting voices of doubt. I have a large vision for the world to be a more abundant place, full of people who claim their own place and voice. My personal mission is to support others in claiming their authentic voice. My vision demands a personality and presence that is sometimes larger than I am ready to believe I can offer. But I am compelled forward and demand that of myself because this is what my true voice is calling for. I am here to learn what I am teaching. Abundance is discovered in self discovery. Fear is overcome in personal risk taking.

I believe that all people can transcend the self limiting voices and find the voice of abundance and power. I urge you, in the words of Barbra Streisand, “to discover you, what you do, and trust it.” What an awesome thought. Focus your time and energy on things that nourish your true self. Trust your voice. Maybe you can’t imagine transcending the voice of self judgment and doubt. Let your vision for a life of abundance drown out the voice of doubt.

My favorite scene in The King’s Speech was when the speech therapist blasted loud music through headphones while King George read from a script. While the music drowned out his active voice of doubt, he read flawlessly. Once the music stopped, his stutter resumed.

Do you have any lingering voices of doubt? What is the noise in your mind that is crowding out all the possibilities for you to live your full potential? Is it the timid voice of self doubt, the precocious voice of skepticism or the winy voice of perfectionism? Beat them at their own game. Drown out the sound of their doubt with the far louder sound of your vision.

Uncover the real blocks to your highest potential, suspend and heal the voices that limit you and set about being all that you can be. After all who are you NOT to be gorgeous, fabulous, talented and abundant in all things? Manifest your highest vision. Raise your sights, raise your optimism and raise your glass to a life of abundance. Speak your truth. Find your voice, your King or Queen’s speech, your defining moment where what you care about, who you are and what the world needs coincide. You have something valuable to say and the rest of us are ready to hear it. Visualize yourself standing before a sports stadium full of people waiting for your encouragement. Picture yourself about to receive an Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement in being abundantly authentic. Step into your power, stand at the podium of life, give thanks for all who have helped bring you to this moment and give fearless voice to your truth. This is your moment. As you find the joy of authentic self expression, you will find your voice effortlessly like a Martin Luther King speech. This will liberate others to do the same. People will feel goose bumps like the first time Susan Boyle sang on Britain’s Got Talent. Who is this woman? Who is this man? What clarity! What boldness! What authenticity!

Now is your time. “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that.” (Howard Thurman)

What the world needs is people who are alive and awake, aware and authentic. What the world needs is YOU living and loving fully, speaking your authentic truth.

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  1. Wendy DeJong says:

    Dear Ian,
    I was SO blessed by this post…thank you! I can identify completely with the public speaking fear and am diligently working to overcome that. 🙂 
    Like you, I too have a vision for the world to be a more abundant place, full of people who claim their own place and voice…who overcome the limiting beliefs they hold about themselves. I do believe that ALL people can transcend the self limiting voices and find the voice of abundance and power if they choose to do so. For me it started with becoming conscious of my thoughts, what I focus on, and what comes out of my mouth. It’s challenging in the beginning but SO worth it!
    Going to share this post with my friends. J
    Be Well,

  2. ian says:

    Nicely said Wendy. Glad you’re out there, living mindfully and sharing the vision of abundance.

  3. Margaret says:

    As always Ian, truly inspirational and a gift to us all who read your words, or hear them.

  4. Phillip Smith says:

    Thanks for this post, Ian.  It is so poignant for today, is it not. We are indeed not humans in need from a cosmic act(Christ’s death, tragic as it was), but rather we have potential, on a journey, “Blessed to be a Blessing”(Genesis 12).  That is the true essence of religion, at least it should be, to, as one of my favourite theologians, John (Jack) Shelby Spong says “to live fully, love wastefully, give extravegantly, live abundantly, and to be the best we can be”!

  5. ian says:

    Thanks for your emphasis on potential and positivity Phillip. Blessings to you and yours.

  6. Christopher says:

    Thank you for this, I have been plagued with self doubt for all my life & it is only recently that I have been able to overcome it. Reminders like this are alwasy helpful in pushing me towards the thoughts I need to keep. Namaste.

  7. This is very moving and beautifully written! By seeing and revealing our inner doubts, they seem to lose their power over us. The energy of one’s own inner healing journey has a magnetic pull which strengthens others’ in their own healing journey (a.k.a. “life”).

  8. Hi Ian — I too was moved by The King’s Speech. I’m also moved by what it inspired you to write, which is so pertinent to me right now as I feel my way into what promises to be a more and more public presence.
    Your experience with having to speak to a crowd when you had nothing to say, conjures up a similar experience for me: having to deliver, in a high school public speaking competition, a memorized speech, and then, as I was being introduced, forgetting the first — or any — word of my speech. I was not bailed out by anyone.
    But I’ve found your observation to hold true for me — that if your belief in what you’re talking about is strong enough, it ends up speaking louder than those voices of doubt!
    Thanks, as always, for your thoughtful, helpful writing.

  9. That is an awesome story! Thanks for sharing. One of my biggest fears came true when I became a victim of cyberstalking. My stalker lies about me, creates numerous websites about me etc  in order to humiliate me publically. One of my worst fears before was not being liked – and i was a people pleaser. Now having such an egregious and hateful attack launched on me on the internet has taught me to more deeply like and know myself. I have come to realize my happiness and self worth are based on my own opinion of myself, and  that is all I can control. I actually have become a stronger, more confident person from having been so viciously attacked. Freeing! Again. thanks for sharing your personal story of facing and overcoming your fears.

  10. ian says:

    Good for you Melissa- many people go the other way and become inwardly fearful. Your newfound strength is the best response to a bully. In effect, the bully failed.

  11. Melissa Kester says:

    Thanks, Ian. That is right. well said. I went fearful and withdrew for a long time but realized I had a choice to make to regain my power. You know, one of those choice in life – which way you want to go – in or out? I walked out. As did you!

  12. It is amazing how ever present fear is today.  I wrote about it a week or so myself and got the comment back that “fear is the disease of our time”.  I have noticed fear being mentioned everywhere I go since writing my post.  And now I see your blog on a similar theme.  Fear is holding so many back from their full potential.  It is the cage that locks us away from our true selves.  Thanks for sharing. 

  13. ian says:

    thx Martha- i will look at your blog too

  14. Carol Shimp says:

    I’ts funny how sometimes I can speak to a gathering and be completely relaxed. And other times I want to hide in a closet. I believe it has a lot to do with the energy and friendly feeling comming from a crowd. How do you win over a negative group? I have a lot of work to do on this. Blessings

  15. Heather says:

    “My vision demands a personality and presence that is sometimes larger than I am ready to believe I can offer.”  I can completely relate to this. This post is just what I needed today! Thanks for the words of encouragement!

  16. Jean says:

    Thank you so much for what you have written.  I have been going through a period of overwhelming self-doubt.  I have so many negative voices in my head.  During the past few years, I have allowed so many people to talk down to me and make me feel bad about myself.  I am going to do my best to speak my authentic truth and make a positive difference in the lives of others.

  17. ian says:

    thanks for your honesty Jean. People who talk down are always covering their own insecurity. Feel compassion for their insecurity, and it wont feel like it has anything to do with who you are. Much love and strength to you.

  18. Veehcirra says:

    Wow, am glad I stumbled on to your site!! This is amazing and so true! I too loved that scene when the loud music drowned the King’s doubting thoughts,and after in silence the doubting thoughts took charge again!!
    Indeed it does take a lot of courage to drown the voice of doubt, and I love how you show that it is possible with your own life experience.
    I chuckled when I read ” it was the largest crowd I almost spoke in front of.” Lovely read!

  19. ian says:

    thanks for your comment and encouragement. Take care

  20. Jo says:

    Hi Ian
    Thanks for this post – it was great to read!
    Last week I ran a session for 82 people – something I would have been physically sick at the thought of just 12 months ago when I started facilitating (and running a session for just 6 people caused me sleepless nights).
    Meditation has helped me to connect with my courage and overcome my fear and anytime I have a challenge I need to face up to I know I can get thru it if I meditate.
    I know that this was something I needed to overcome to do what I’m here to do… Even if I’m not entirely sure what I’m hear to do yet 😉
    Love reading your posts – keep sharing…
    Jo x

  21. […] Soulseeds » Blog Archive » Finding Your Authentic Voice. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

  22. Beatriz says:

    What a beautiful and just-in-time words.
    Thank you.

  23. […] Soulseeds » Blog Archive » Finding Your Authentic Voice. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  24. Joan Kappes says:

    As Lionel said to his friend, “You were sublime”…………
    “Thank you” for this wonderful reflection.  Truly inspiring………..

  25. Semin says:

    Dear Ian,
    first of all thank you very much for this article. Months ago I got an offer from a radio station just to talk about life. I said yes to the offer. I did a demo but then I just didn’t like it and I postponed it. Now I am reading your article and I feel it’s time to let my authentic voice come out.  

  26. Nina Fox says:

    You continue to amaze me at your willingness to expose your issues and life stories.  I stand up and Applaud YOU.  I wish I could have been there when you stuttered as I would have  placed my hand on your shoulder. 
    Performance always creates anxiety unless you crave attention seeking. I also found another way to cope with the same feelings of fear and anxiety derived from my own lack of self-esteem and worth.  Facilitating groups of people, I was afraid to make a mistake and appear stupid or inept, so I challenged myself to make that dreaded  mistake on purpose.  When I did, I realized that it was Nothing like I had feared and that I was blowing this all out of proportion.  I was then able to get down to business and not worry at all how others perceive me.  Today, I don’t care what other’s think except for those I love….as people are going to perceive you through their looking glass filters which you have NO control over
    Thank You

  27. ian says:

    thank you Nina. Sounds like you have a VERY healthy attitude with praise and criticism. Ian

  28. DavId Anderson says:

    Loved the concept of the  ‘noisy voice of doubt.’. I think we all suffer from that.

  29. […] Here’s an outstanding article on overcoming fear by Ian Lawton at Soulseeds… […]

  30. Jim Bouchard says:

    Ian, thanks for the wonderful article. Seems we’re singing in harmony!

    I just posted a link to your article on my blog. Here’s a post I did on fear, particularly for entrepreneurial women: 

    Best Thoughts!

  31. Verona says:

    Excellent article Ian! Everyone who wants to have a fulfilled life in every area of  it should follow your good advice.

  32. Pepper Blair says:

    My wife and I were just talking about this very thing, how words can damage for a lifetime. I enjoy reading your blogs and the clarity you have to express topics.

  33. Shante says:

    You express yourself so well, that fifth grade teacher was so wrong. Thank you for your healing voice!

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