Finding Your True Voice, Part 1

Oct 2, 2012

The world is waiting to hear an authentic voice, a voice from God–not an echo of what others are doing and saying, but an authentic voice. —A. W. Tozer

In a world marked by a cacophony of noise, it’s not easy to find your voice.

Trust me. I’ve been searching for mine for years.

When I first started writing and speaking, I thought my biggest obstacles were things like craft, time constraints, and critics and naysayers. External forces and factors that required a focused and determined overcoming. And so I read books and blogs, put in chunks of time, invited mentoring and critique, and practiced, practiced, practiced. Not to mention no small amount of praying and pleading.

Finally I reached a place where I believed, at long last, Yes, I can do this. I knew I hadn’t “arrived,” from the beginning I understood I could never stop learning. But I thought I’d achieved a level of experience and expertise I’d been working toward.

As it turns out, I had another hurdle to overcome. And it was a big one:

Myself.

I resisted this painful awareness, tried to find a different enemy. It’s easier to argue with editors and audiences than it is to wrestle with self. But my greatest challenge had nothing to do with craft or content and everything to do with my own internal journey to be at peace with myself. To find my voice. And embrace it, fully, without excuse or apology.

You see, I’m a pleaser. In recovery, yes, but it’s a beast that will likely always lie dormant at my core. My whole life I’ve chased affirmation and reassurance and approval as water for my soul. But it wasn’t—and isn’t—water. It’s cotton candy, sweet at first taste but evaporating to air the minute I swallow it up. Not at all worth running after.

In short, I didn’t believe in myself enough to be myself.

As leaders and artists (and parents, spouses and friends), one of our chief temptations is the temptation to hide ourselves behind imitation. In our pursuit of learning and excellence, we follow in the steps of talent and expertise and sit as hungry students at their feet. We listen to the feedback of readers and hearers, jumping high and low according to their comments. To be taught and mentored is both good and necessary.

But there’s a fine line between being a student and being a slave.

A student learns, but ultimately embarks on her own path. A slave can’t speak or step without permission. She’s merely a carbon-copy, an extension of another voice.

If you want to find your voice, if you want to be an authentic, true expression of God in a generation desperate for Him, you have to be willing to be you, in all your unfinished imperfection. To risk. To trust yourself (and your Creator) enough to put your truest self forth. To say something you might later recant. To write something no one understands. To speak truth when someone disagrees. To be unique and utterly yourself at the risk of being wrong, misunderstood or even alone.

On Thursday, I’ll share Part 2, including the three enemies that kept me from finding my voice. My hope is it will help ease your efforts to find yours.

For now, my truest self has a word you need to hear:

You are enough.

You don’t need to sound like that blogger or speaker or leader you love so much. You don’t need to change your message because you think the world will like you better. You don’t need to hide or pretend or copy.

You are enough.

Believe it.

What’s the biggest obstacle to finding your voice?

27 Comments

    • Michele

      Thank you, Jess.

      Reply
  1. Denise

    I get in my own way, too.
    Thank you for being real and authentic. It is so refreshing…
    For whatever it’s worth, I think you do have a unique voice and I look forward to reading your posts.
    I feel your vulnerability, and it speaks deeply to me.
    Thank you, Michele.

    Reply
    • Michele

      Glad to hear it, Denise. I’m grateful for your encouragement! Vulnerability is worth it, but it’s takes a deep breath of courage.

      Reply
  2. Julie Jarnagin

    “My whole life I’ve chased affirmation and reassurance and approval as water for my soul. But it wasn’t—and isn’t—water. It’s cotton candy, sweet at first taste but evaporating to air the minute I swallow it up. Not at all worth running after.” Love this!

    Reply
  3. Marcus Allen Steele

    Nicely stated, Michele. And if one can somehow put their genuine, honest self on paper––without indiscriminate grenade throwing and uncharitable musings––I think the message will be well-received. But what do I know. I’ve only been blogging a month and I still worry that I’m going to upset someone’s grandmother because of my irreverence. God bless!

    Reply
    • Michele

      The truth is if you write honestly and authentically, eventually you WILL offend someone. Just part of the deal. I finally had to just accept it …. so I could keep writing. 🙂

      Reply
  4. Brenda

    I wish you had a ‘like’ button, because I really like this! Such great encouragement…and timely. Thanks for the refreshing word.

    Reply
    • Michele

      Oooh, I should probably get one of those, huh? I’m so NOT technical. Thanks for the encouragement right back!

      Reply
  5. Gina Holmes

    You said what I feel so beautifully. God has been taking me on this journey too and it’s a constant process. Fear of being found out keeps us from speaking the truth that people so desperately need to hear. So glad you posted about this issue of authenticity. It’s very dear to my heart!

    Reply
    • Michele

      You’re so right, Gina. It’s a constant process. I’m (slowly) learning it takes far less energy to be true, than to maintain a facade. Even in the risk, it feels right. And that gives courage.

      Reply
  6. Carol Andersen

    Wonderfully written Michele! This inspires me to own (and share) my imperfect story for its here that other struggling sojourners are free to embrace their imperfections too. When we write/share about God’s rescue and restoration we liberate the shame beast from the chains of perfectionism and self preservation. While difficult and at times painful (even humiliating?) – I’ve often had the experience of seeing another soul freed as I expose my own failures and shortcomings — knowing that nothing I’ve done will hold God back from weaving beauty through my life story.

    Reply
    • Michele

      🙂 Thanks, Melissa. Good to see you here.

      Reply
  7. Stephanie

    I just found you and am so glad I did! What a great site! I think the biggest obstacle for me is comparing. I find myself constantly thinking I should sound more like this person, or write like that person, or have my blog set up like this other person. I also tend to think I need to have successfully overcome certain areas in order to write about them – instead of just being who I was created to be, imperfections and all. It’s definitely an everyday battle.

    Reply
    • Michele

      Nice to meet you, Stephanie. I’m so glad you stopped by. Comparison is a killer, isn’t? I’ll be talking more about that on Thursday … (maybe YOU should write my post!)

      Reply
  8. Deanna

    Michele,
    Thanks for the reminder that my voice is enough.

    Sometimes I “wish” that my writing was so much more – more eloquent, smarter, more creative.. all of it.
    Laying that wish at the feet of Jesus right now!

    Reply
    • Michele

      If you could only read the tape that plays constantly in my mind. Or maybe not. It’s scary. 😉 I hear you on the wishing my writing was more …

      Reply
  9. Sarah Beckman

    Wise words, and ones I resonate with completely. Recovering pleaser myself, I know what it’s like to fill blogs and paper with platitudes. But time and again, I feel better when I really say what I want to say, instead of worrying what others will think or how it will perfectly build my “platform”…

    Slave is right – but we are a work in progress, and every time you share that on the printed page, I breathe a sigh of “OH HOW I RELATE WITH THAT!” and that my friend, is worth writing about.

    Press on, and Press in. You are enough. Amen!

    Reply
    • Michele

      Sarah, I love you. So grateful you are my friend, for more reasons than I can list …

      Reply
  10. Change Volunteer

    You know how I love your blog. I keep telling you time and again just to emphasize it is true! The only thing here is I feel we all lead double lives, I try to be that one person, but I am different to different people. I mean may be that is the difference between a personal and professional life. I can’t be an open book to everyone.

    Reply
    • Michele

      Yes, I absolutely agree. I think that’s part of the “responsibility of authenticity,” which is next week’s post. Stay tuned. 😉

      Reply
  11. Jenna

    I often forget I need to take risks- to say things “people may not understand” or to be okay with imperfection or later wishing I would have said something differently. I think this is easy to do in all aspects of life, but writing and finding your voice magnifies the fear and can make it more difficult to take the risk. If we are going to be vulnerable with our own voices, we must offer ourselves much grace. Thank you for this reminder!

    Reply
  12. Jojo Nipper

    What a great post. You put clarity to relunctance I’ve been struggling with -thank you. I look forward to the the parts that follow. Love the Tozer quote. Love “To be unique and utterly yourself at the risk of being wrong, misunderstood or even alone.” It feels a bit kamakazee – and freeing.

    Reply
    • Michele

      I like that–kamakazee freedom. Sounds exactly like the cross.

      Reply
  13. Jennie Allen

    You know how much I loved this friend! And you have a gift for helping others find theirs.

    Reply
  14. susan harms

    Thank you so much Michele. You could never know how much I needed to read your words today! I find it so hard to find my voice when I think no one is listening. When I believe my voice is shaped by my listeners or my readers, I forget the truth that God is the one who has given me my voice, not them.
    I love your blog. Thank you for sharing your voice. He has given you a beautiful one and you bless me beyond measure.

    Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Finding Your True Voice, Part 2 | Michele Cushatt - [...] TagsAfrica Authenticity Authors Bible in a Year Bible Study Blogging Book Reviews Books Change Church Communication Compassion Conflict Connection…
  2. Most Interesting Blog Posts Of 2012 | 31 Kings - [...] Finding Your True Voice, Part 1  –  Michele Cushatt Love that Tozer quote. [...]

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