The Power of Your Own Voice
by Annia Baron
I was 19 when my dad died. After some months passed, I put on a CD he had made and hearing his voice again, I fell apart. The sound of him singing did something to me and to this day, when I play his songs, it creates an experience more powerful than looking at pictures of his face.
Sound is integral to our sense of self and how we interpret and experience life, emotions, and relationships. We get to enjoy the tranquil sound of birds, soothing sounds of the ocean, music and laughter, and the voices of those we love and care about. But the one voice that remains most significant to our wellbeing is the one we hear the most – our own. And funnily enough, not many of us like the sound of our own voice. Why is that?
Our beautiful brains evolved to prioritise safety for survival and reproduction. Back in the day, threats were predominately wild beasts and things that could kill us. Today, physical threats to our safety are few, but psychological threats to our ego, self-identity and sense of belonging are plenty. At any sign of ‘danger’ our limbic system prioritises necessary biophysiological changes, including increased heart rate, rapid breathing and an elevation in cortisol and adrenaline. Cognitively, our thinking changes and our inner dialogue as a default, becomes more negative. These days though, what we hear isn’t “Quick, run from the lion chasing you!” but rather “So much is changing lately.” “I feel like a failure.” “Why do I always overthink everything?”
Because our brains are wired to be on alert for threats over positive stimuli, in essence, over the life span, we accumulate a whole lot more negative inner talk. If all our thoughts were recorded and turned into a Spotify playlist, the ratio of songs about self-doubt or self-depreciation would be greater than tracks which cultivate our sense of self-worth and belief. Add into the mix all the usual daily life stresses, pressures and comparison to others, no wonder we don’t like the sound of our own voice –generally, it’s been saying a lot of unpleasant things!
But merely replacing negative thoughts with positive words is not the answer. If your brain isn’t comfortable hearing you speak lovingly towards yourself in the first place, it’s not going to believe the content of what you’re saying, especially when your limbic system is triggered. To cut through the old unnecessary chatter, we need to hear ourselves speaking meaningful truths during times of meaningful change.
One way to do this is to think of situations in which you tend to revert to unhelpful or unwanted behaviours (e.g., avoidance, distraction, relying on bad habits, seeking a quick fix, acting in misalignment with your values etc). Whip out your phone and press the record button. Imagine being your future self – the one that has achieved your goals and acts in a way that makes you feel good about yourself. Envisage yourself as the you who has already overcome bad habits. Or if it helps, think of what a loved one would say to you in those moments. Speak from that place. Say what’s in your heart. For you, it may sound like a tough-love, kick-up-the-butt pep talk or perhaps it will sound more like a compassionate, courage-creating reminder. You may feel silly. Your mind may tell you this is ridiculous. Do it anyway. Then, importantly, play it back. Play it often. Soon your brain will start to connect more authentically to the words you’re saying because your own voice, speaking in this new way, will no longer feel foreign to your auditory cortex. It will begin to sound like a song you want to listen to.
Every now and then, I still play my dad’s music. I smile. Listening to him sing is a reminder of the power we have in using our voice to better ourselves and the lives of those we love. Honour your own mindset playlist. Be selective with what voice you choose to hear.
If you’d like more information about mindset coaching, visit www.remindyourself.com or contact Annia, Clinical Psychologist & Mindset Coach on 0402 448 278
Our brains are hardwired for music.
But where does the power of music come from? Professor Daniel Levitin synthesizes psychology, music, and neuroscience in his book ‘This is Your Brain on Music’. He explores a cascade of activity, from the eardrum to cells deep inside the brain that regulate emotion set off whenever we hear music and explores how composers exploit the way our brains make sense of the world, how our musical preferences begin to form before we are born, and how musical expertise is built.