Did you know your voice is a super power?” Chantal asked the group of young girls gathered for another week of the Super Power Programme.
Wide eyed, they shook their heads. Some whispered, “No.”
“Did you know that your emotions affect your voice?” Chantal went on, “What happens to your voice when you are very sad, or afraid, or angry?”
“You can’t speak properly,” answered one girl.
“Your voice goes funny,” said another.
“Yes, this is because our emotions cause reactions in our body that send signals to our muscles, some of which control our voice. Our breathing, jaw, neck and shoulders, as well as our tongue and larynx are affected. The tension that is caused can literally shut down our voice.”
Often not heard
It was fitting that this particular week of the programme, only girls showed up. It wasn’t planned, it just happened that way. These young women often feel shut down, ignored, spoken over and shouted at. Seldom do they feel truly heard. Many of them speak very softly, afraid to hear their own voices.
Most of them have been at the receiving end of violence, aggression and abuse. Loud, overbearing yelling voices directed at them. They shrink and go silent in the face of the onslaught, contract and try to make themselves smaller so as not to attract this attention.
The sad thing is that when we feel we can’t voice our emotions we shut down even more. It becomes a vicious cycle. Our purpose at this session was to encourage the participants to find their voices, use them in different ways, experiment and, of course, laugh.
There are many ways to express and find your voice…
The man with the honeyed voice
Matthew is not, by nature, an expressive soul. He was taught very early on in his life that to speak up and speak out was unwelcome, even potentially dangerous. So he learnt to tuck his opinions, views and ideas away deep inside. He would only allow his voice out into the open when he felt safe.
The irony is that Matthew has a beautiful voice. He has been described by a friend as “the man with the honeyed voice”. His voice has a deep resonance and he speaks at a measured pace. His challenge is in projection. He sometimes finds it difficult to speak loudly or very fast. Often the time it takes for him to vocalise what he wants to say gets mistaken as a cue by the other party to step in and speak instead, shutting him down by this interruption.
…some are more creative than others…
Expression is important
Watching rugby recently, Chantal was focused on her crocheting. She found the game too intense to watch and was happy to listen to it and the voice cues of those sitting next to her. Tristan was providing some commentary in the form of exclamations, heartfelt urgings and bursts of cheers or groans. She was unnerved, however, by the complete lack of noise coming from Matthew sitting by her side.
“You do know,” she remarked to Matthew, “I need your voice to indicate to me what is happening on the field. I need to know whether it is time to look up and join the excitement, or commiserate at a stolen scoring opportunity. You have to exprrrresss!”
…the important thing, however, is to find it.
Value in your voice
They all laughed at that. Matthew is learning to be more expressive, as Chantal is learning to turn down the volume on her effusiveness. That’s why she crochets when the Springboks play. Her opinions are loudly voiced to the screen when watching rugby, movies and series.
“Oh the idiot, idiot, idiot! Now look at what he has gone and done!” Her voice raises with her arms as she flings them in the air in exasperation. She leans more to the dramatic side.
It has gotten so bad that at times Matthew has had to ask her to “Tone it down, I can’t hear what is being said.”
There is value in knowing when and how much to use one’s voice and to use it well. Our voices are all unique, and they are powerful agents of change. Our voices express our needs, our voices express our boundaries. They can provide humour and support, guidance and learning. Together our voices can change laws and governments. Our voices truly are a super power.
As one of our wonderful young women said at the closing of the session: “If I don’t use my voice, no-one else is going to do it for me.”
At the closing end of what is Women’s Month here in South Africa, we offer a moment to pause… and consider how you can encourage those around you to develop and use their super power. And how you are using yours.
Until next time.
Yours in feeling,
Chantal & Matthew
About the author
5th Place is a dynamic organization that's passionate about emotional fitness. We're the creators of Shape of Emotion, a revolutionary tool that's changing the way we understand and manage our emotions. But we're not just about theory - we're about practical, tangible change.
We offer Emotional Fitness Classes and courses that help individuals, from children to adults, build emotional resilience and well-being. For our younger audience, we've created the Vibarealm, a vibrant universe that encourages a healthier interaction with emotions.
Join us on this journey to emotional fitness and let's make the world a better place together.