Shame and the Voice

Shame—we’ve all experienced it and know what it feels like to feel less than who we truly are or hope to be. In fact, moments of shame from our biography live in our memory for years and years just below the surface of our skin. Unfortunately, they often manifest physically in a variety of ways—and the voice is no exception. As one’s self-esteem plummets, so does their ability to vocally express themselves with a sense of authenticity and freedom. It is as if we ostracize ourselves from the truth of our being because we feel we do not somehow match up to other people’s or our own expectations. Our inner critical voice takes over for all those external voices that have once made us feel wrong, worthless or inferior. We then become so fearful that in order not to make another mistake, we pull ourselves back from all that life has to offer—like full vocal expressiveness. Before we even open our mouths, we shut ourselves down for fear of being re-shamed all over again.

guiltshameThe voice is the epitome of vulnerability. We cannot blame anyone or anything that emanates from our mouth and expect anyone to be believed. We truly are our voice! However, when one feels shame about themselves, they are hesitant to use their voice in a public arena for fear that they will reveal just how shameful they truly are. The shamed generally as a result end up saying, singing or speaking very little. They often squelch strong emotional outbursts so as not to draw attention to themselves. In time, the shamed often lose the sense of who below their level of shame they truly are.

It is our birthright to fully express ourselves. As my teacher Aftab Omer once said, “The soul demands its full expression.” Therefore, it is clear to me that the way into the release of that shame is through the voice—giving the shame a voice by way of storytelling, vocal toning, singing and recitation. As the voice strengthens, so does one’s sense of self. And as one’s sense of self strengthens, so does their ability to becomes vocally expressive.