September 6, 2013

What insecurities are keeping you from the stage?

I've written here before about hanging onto insecurities for way too long, like when my babysitter told me that I had "little eyes" -- when I was all of five years old -- and I hung onto that horrible perceived flaw for decades.

I spoke to two people this week who have been holding onto perceived defects for many years without getting any feedback to change their views. These "defects" have led to great insecurity over time, but fortunately, they called me! And I set them straight.

The first client told me she was self-conscious about her accent. She grew up speaking multiple languages and didn't move to the United States until her teens. It's one of the main things holding her back from getting out there in front of audiences. But guess what: She doesn't have an accent!

At least, her accent is so minor and so insignificant that it will be unnoticeable to 99% of people who hear her speak. And to that remaining 1% (like me, who have a really good ear for accents), they might think she's a typical southern California native who grew up speaking English, but maybe had Spanish-speaking parents.

I never would have guessed that she grew up speaking three Asian languages in addition to English and I never would have guessed that she wasn't born here. Her accent is minimal, her grasp of English is perfect, and this is absolutely a non-issue.

When I told her this, the relief she expressed was phenomenal. She's never gotten feedback on her voice and had built up this terrible lack of confidence and self-consciousness about her accent. I realize her self-consciousness won't go away overnight, but this is the first time anyone has told her that her accent is nonexistent.

I also spoke to a man this week who thinks he has a terrible speaking voice because -- 40 years ago -- a vocal coach in college told him he did.

Wow. Can you imagine (I bet you can...) carrying around something like this for 40 years? Thinking you have a terrible voice because one person so long ago gave you this feedback?

Again, I set him straight. He doesn't have a terrible speaking voice in any way, shape or form. Yes, he can probably improve his speaking voice, like most of us can if we're going to spend a lot of time on stage. But "can improve" is a long way from "terrible."

Are you carrying around some deep-seated insecurity about your voice, your appearance, your abilities, your mannerisms or something else that's holding you back from the stage? And if so, have you actually gotten feedback on this perceived imperfection, or are you perhaps blowing it out of proportion because someone told you a long time ago that this was something "wrong" with you and it's gotten bigger and uglier over time?

Get feedback from a neutral party. Find out if it's all in your head. Because in order to move forward you have to determine if this is something that's even a problem. If it is, then by all means make the effort to fix it. But if it's not, wouldn't you rather just let it go?

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6 comments. Please add yours! :

Ngina Otiende said...

thank you Lisa! I identify with the lady who was self-conscious about her accent...cos I have one! I am 2 years old in America, moved here from Kenya (Africa). In my early days here someone told me I have broken english...because I didn't have an American accent! That wasn't helped by the many "huh?" and quizzical to blank looks from others when i talked. For an aspiring speaker (building up business again), it's been quite a journey overcoming that. Thanks for the encouragement here!

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thank you for your comment, Ngina! I'm glad to hear you've overcome your self-consciousness. It's always important to get feedback and make sure others understand you. But if they do, then that's not a problem any more and you can just focus on your message!

Marissa McClellen said...

Thank you Lisa. Wow so happy that I've found you! I am a health/fitness blogger/professional looking to branch out into the public speaking world and am TERRIFIED but want to share my success with families everywhere! My Aunt suggested that I find YOU and I'm sure glad that she did! Thank you :) Off to read more...

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thanks for reading, Marissa. Who's your aunt? I would love to thank her for sending you my way! And good luck on your speaking adventure!

BraveCommLLC said...

This speaks to how important it is to watch what we say to others. A flippant comment can have lasting affects on a person. Sometimes we produce our own insecurities. I remember hearing my voice recorded for the first time and was mortified. Did I really sound like that? No one ever told me i had a bad voice. I just decided one day I didn't like it. Silly, but our biggest hang ups come on that simply don't they?

Lisa Braithwaite said...

So TRUE, Julia! Both what we say to others and to ourselves. And it is a bit shocking how fast we can go from confident to insecure with one comment either way.

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