Reclaiming My Voice

Reclaiming My Voice

We become what we practice. This is a fairly simple statement, some might say it’s obvious. If we repeatedly act a certain way, think a certain thought, or do a certain thing - over time, it becomes a habit. The repeated action or way of thinking can become so habitual that the line between this action/thought being a thing that you just do and being a core unchangeable part of who you are can easily blur.

This action/thought can become a misconception, which according to the Oxford dictionary can be defined as ‘“a view or opinion that is incorrect because it is based on faulty thinking or understanding”. This can also be called a limiting belief!

In a previous blog post, I wrote about how I went through a lot of change and growth over the past several years, and how that involved shedding some limiting self beliefs. One limiting self belief/misconception I had was that my disability was ugly. Another misconception I am learning to unravel is that my voice shouldn’t be listened to. 

Before I dive into this new misconception, let’s talk about the different types of misconceptions that there can be. These aren’t formalized definitions, but just observances based on my own experiences. The three different types of misconceptions are:

  1. Shallow misconceptions - these are limiting beliefs that are newly formed, and are fully realized by the person acting them out. These misconceptions are intentionally acted out to serve a specific purpose, whatever that may be. 
  2. Deep misconceptions - these are limiting beliefs that are rooted a bit deeper, and aren’t typically realized until some self reflection happens. These misconceptions can very much be like that bad habit you are realizing that you have, and are trying hard to kick. 
  3. Embodied misconceptions - these are limiting beliefs that don’t even seem like limiting beliefs. These types of misconceptions are so ingrained in you that you think it’s who you are.

One thing that all misconceptions have in common is that they are not factually true.

The same thing applies to my belief that my voice shouldn’t be listened to. I think that my voice doesn’t sound ‘as polished’ as most people that I know, because of my deaf accent. I’ve built this misconception around the fact that my voice shouldn’t be listened to, and internalized it until it became an embodied misconception. It took me years before I realized that I so strongly believed this fact about myself that it seeped into what I speak, when I speak, and how I speak.

I remember when this belief started, but let’s go back a bit further than that. When I was born, I had limited hearing. I could hear sounds, but not at the same depth as I was meant to. I picked up pieces of speech that way, but my articulation wasn’t great. Then I was diagnosed with severe to profound hearing loss at three years old, and got fitted with a cochlear implant at seven. The cochlear implant enabled me to hear - but the way I hear sounds through this cochlear implant is different than those who can hear without one. I had to re-learn how to hear with these new sounds, and also how to speak.

I went through rigorous speech therapy, and read to myself out loud every night until I could say paragraphs as clearly as I could. I was proud of myself, and proud of the voice that I worked so hard to get.

Then the criticisms came, from well-intentioned teachers telling me to speak slowly so that my speech could be clearer than it already was, and from rude classmates who made fun of the way my voice sounded. These little moments built up! Those moments, coupled with moments where I would try to speak, and someone would impatiently cut me off and finish my sentence for me, led me to become quieter.

I told myself that it’s better to stay quiet, that someone else can say their opinion, that it’s okay not to share what I think. Soon, in a lot of areas of my life, I became what I practiced - someone who didn’t think their voice mattered.

This embodied misconception leaked into so many parts of my life. I didn’t share anything about myself unless I was asked. I was always the last to provide an opinion (if I did at all). I would accept it if someone spoke over me (even if someone else expressed their outrage over that). When I spoke, I didn’t speak for long.

I believed that my voice and my opinion wasn’t relevant. I believed that no one would want to hear me speak because my voice sounded weird.

I was speaking to a friend, and I said, “when I speak, I don’t sound confident. I ramble, and I’m never sure of myself.” I was convinced that everyone saw this as well. I got a surprised look in response, and that friend said, “I don’t see that. I think you’re actually very confident when you speak.”

If you speak your limiting beliefs aloud, you’d likely be surprised to learn that the only person that believes them are you.

Ever since I’ve realized this misconception of mine, I took a step back and acknowledged that I do have that belief, but that doesn’t mean that it’s true.

Now, I’m taking the steps to prove myself wrong by reclaiming my voice. I’m doing this by:

  • Taking that first step, and providing an opinion first in work meetings.
  • Sharing my stories with my friends first without them having to always ask.
  • Talking about the book I worked hard to create and publish in university about my experience growing up and living with hearing loss.
  • Sending voice notes. I’m trying to normalize both hearing my own voice, and allowing myself to let others listen to my voice. Fun fact - I always start a voice note with “hello”, even if I’m responding to a text message or another voice note in the middle of a conversation full of back and forth voice notes. It’s just “hellos” everywhere.

I still struggle with this misconception at times, but I know that the more I continue to reclaim my voice, the more confident I will see myself when it comes to speaking. We become what we practice after all.

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