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?

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