I have loved music for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, I used to tape record myself singing. I loved our school music performances in elementary school and would play and sing along for hours with the tape our teacher sent home. I often hoped to be given a solo in the Christmas and spring performances. I vividly recall wanting one particular solo and thinking after the performance that I would have done a better job than the kid who received the part. I obviously did not have any confidence issues.
At some point, all of that changed. I came to believe that I had a bad singing voice. I don’t recall anyone telling me I didn’t sing well. I do have memories in middle and high school of answering the phone and people thinking they were speaking with a man. (That still happens.) Once the caller went through the names of the other three members of my household before saying, “Who is this?” My grandfather once said that he liked my voice because it wasn’t high pitched or shrill. I think my complex about my singing voice stemmed from having a manly-sounding voice. In my head, having a lower-pitched voice got twisted to mean that I had a bad voice, one that would not sound good because it was too low for a woman.
Whatever happened, I became terrified to sing in situations where I might be heard – at a birthday party, at my twelve member Christian campus group, with friends, and at church. I still loved singing when I was alone, but I feared being rejected or ridiculed by others when they heard how bad I sounded. (Why I thought this would happen, I cannot tell you. Fear can come up with all kinds of unlikely scenarios to paralyze you.)
Once in college, I asked a musical friend of mine to tell me truthfully how my singing sounded. After I sung along with a CD for a bit he said it sounded fine. While encouraging, that opinion was not enough to change my thoughts.
When I became a mother, I learned that singing to my children helped soothe them when they were fussy. I wanted to sing them the songs I had heard and loved as a child in the hopes that they, too, would love them. I was okay with this because I knew they wouldn’t judge me and would love me regardless. It was still challenging to sing in front of my husband but I would occasionally do it. I once decided to sing him “Happy Birthday” solo to demonstrate my love for him. I was terrified, but no one died and we’re still married so I guess it was fine.
I was slowly loosening up, but still extremely self-conscious. I tried to bolster my confidence by reminding myself that the Bible says to “make a joyful noise unto the Lord” in order to feel okay worshipping through singing at church. It says “joyful noise” not “melodious, on-key singing only,” right?
Last fall I went to Propel Activate with some women from my church. During the day-long conference, one of the women in my group said to me something along the lines of, “I know you think you have a bad singing voice, but you don’t.” I was shocked. How did she know this about me? (I asked her recently and she said that I told her at a women’s retreat several years prior.) At the time (and still now), I believed that it was a message from God reminding me that he sees me and knows me. Earlier this year I had a dream that my mom told me I could sing well. It seemed very random, but I found it comforting.
I have been gradually singing more freely at church, birthday parties, and with my family but am still self-conscious about it. I have noticed more professional women singers with deeper voices who sound amazing and that brings encouragement as well. I may not be ready for karaoke – that’s still a nightmarish scenario for me – but I am grateful for the growth in this area.
I think it’s been helpful looking back to try to find the cause of my beliefs in order to root out the lies. Only by recognizing what I am believing about myself and why, can I determine whether I am living in truth. If not, then I can replace the lies with truth. I may not have a Grammy-worthy voice, but it is highly unlikely I will be unfriended or mocked by others for singing. If I like singing, I should do it and let my joy make up for whatever I may lack.
What lies have you been believing that have kept you stuck in fear? Do you have any areas of struggle in your life where you have been making progress?