Connections, Coffee & Confidence
Use Your Voice to Stand Out
This episode is a bit of a departure from my usual, message-driven, strategic content. This one is more of a musing on how our experiences shape our voice and we use our voice to stand out - no matter how much we might want to just fit in sometimes. How combining our experiences into something new might take courage and boundaries and a leap of faith, but we can do it. A little bit meta as this episode is me stretching my voice, calling on my experiences and using them as stories to illustrate my points, and opening up a bit about my own journey.
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So this week, as I write, is my birthday week. I’ll be 42 and I find myself fairly reflective, doing lots of thinking. Maybe it’s the age, maybe it’s the amount of change we’ve gone through as a family and that I’ve gone through personally. Today I want to talk you through being different and the urge to fit in.
Right at the outset, I want to be clear.
I can only speak to my experience and somewhat that of my family as we can really only know ourselves. And I don’t presume to think we or I have a monopoly on feeling or being different. I know that sometimes there’s a necessity to fit in, there are issues around personal safety for being different. As a mom to children with higher needs, I have some lived experience with this, I can’t imagine dealing with it personally and have no place to address it so I’m not.
What I do want to talk about is how your experiences, your decisions and the resulting consequences, they all make you different on the inside. This episode is a bit of a departure from my usual message driven style and I’ll be curious to know how this lands, please send me an email or post on my Connections Coffee & Confidence Facebook page and let me know what you think.
Alright, let’s get into this.
Well by the time you hear this we’ll be into September. My favorite month and not just because of my birthday. I love the changing colours that are so unique to this part of the world. And you don’t need to @ me on that one, there is science to back up that claim to uniqueness. But I love it. I love the snugglier clothes but there is still enough sunshine and heat for those summer dresses and last trips to the beach before the snow falls. You know what? I even loved school starting. And I was always doubly excited because I used to get school supplies for my birthday sometimes, like little extras. This is the time before you had to have 3 two and a half inch binders, one red, one light blue and one black, and so on. So I was pretty darn happy to have Strawberry Shortcake scribblers and funky erasers and whatnot. Parents wouldn’t buy them for their own kids but they’d splash out on name brands to spice up a birthday gift and I was considered odd because I relished the nice school supplies. We moved a few times while I was growing up so I was not only the new kid but the new kid who liked school supplies.
But you know what? I even still write in my gratitude list that I’m grateful for a really nice pen or new journal. Could be my virgo tendencies, I don’t know.
So in the last ten years, our family has gone through some massive upheavals and changes. We’re not alone in that. We’ve moved continent, crossed Canada twice. Lived with my inlaws and my parents. We’ve had numerous diagnoses that have impacted how we function as a family unit, how we interact with our communities. We’ve rented, bought and sold homes. We’ve been sick, gotten healthy and learned to all live, work and play together 24/7.
All of these experiences and others I won’t bore you with, have shaped me differently to what I had anticipated. And I bet that’s the same for you.
It’s that different aspect that I‘ve been reflecting on.
For example, I speak differently to my parents and brothers, with a different accent and expressions. And different still from where we’ve lived, no matter where that is. I sounded Canadian in Ireland and by the time we left Ireland, I sounded fairly Irish. I’ve lost a bit of it and picked back up some of the Maritime accent but not enough to sound local. Sometimes someone will start to speak to me and there’s this moment after I respond where they try and figure out if I’m local or where I’m from. You can see it on their polite but curious face. I’m different.
Sometimes being different is hard. It makes you tired to the bone and you wish you could just not be different. You wish you could be the same or at least feel the same just for a few moments, just to take the weight off
Unfortunately, that’s not a long term strategy. And as understandable as it may be, it’s not a healthy one either.
Those differences are what shape your voice. You know, that thing that helps you communicate with others. Not just the vibrations that come from your vocal chords but the way you speak, the mannerisms you incorporate, the ways you express yourself. The way you attract or repel people, run your day-to-day relationships and your business.
Your voice defines you as being separate from others who might be perceived as the same by those who see you as part of a larger, blurry group they lump people in your industry into.
And that’s a good thing. Because when it comes to your business, you want to be seen as unique. You want to be remembered for something and ideally something that is comfortable and natural to you.
There are loads and loads of podcasters, if you hadn’t noticed. And many of them are women in what’s termed the marketing and business space. So at first and still now, it’s easier being in such a crowded space because it’s easier to do something scary when I think no one is listening. This could be the same for you when you started your business. You wanted to blend in because it feels safer, more comfortable. You had done something different for you but maybe you’ve done it exactly the same way as everyone else so how are you actually standing out?
You use your voice.
In my early episodes, I felt more stilted. I had only heard wildly successful female podcasters and I couldn’t be them - could I - but I felt the pressure to do it the same way. But my personality is kind of quiet and shy, I’m thoughtful and analytical and I felt like those traits would help me establish credibility with all of the strangers who, frankly, were not listening.
But what makes me me is that I have a dry and often sarcastic sense of humor. I’ve been an immigrant, I’ve done some travelling, I see things from different perspectives and have different ways of expressing myself. And I need to accept that it’s okay for me to be me, to speak like I do and let my observations come out. Because those are what will help me carve out more of a niche and get a bigger following.
Um, hey, what will also help is if you could leave a fabulous five star review on Apple Podcasts or Podchaser for me. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference reviews make when people are choosing a new podcast to listen to. Thank you!
Because I need to not sound like Amy Porterfield or Jenna Kutcher, they have those niches quite nicely settled. I need to sound like Janice Fogarty, whatever her accent or approach.
And you need to do the same. Be yourself, I mean. Don’t be me. It’s not as cool as I make it out to be.
Using my voice as a tool to help my podcast grow is one thing but in accepting it coming out in my marketing, in my interviews on other podcasts and or media, where there might be a new or larger audience, is still hard. Because there’s that desire to fit in. That desire to not stand too far out because what if?
What if I make a mistake. What if I do it wrong and it can never be fixed. What if somebody hates me. What if somebody points out I’m wrong and everybody thinks I’m stupid. What if they don’t understand me. What if they judge me and find me lacking.
So going back to Ireland for a moment, they have this delightful habit over there of combining occupations just because that’s the way it’s done. My favorite is visiting a small border town and heading to the local pub for a pint or two. And I ended up sitting on the counter while my husband sat on the freezer because the pub was also a glorified convenience store that sold a selection of groceries. And hardware goods. And was the undertaker.
Of course this was a throwback to the early early years when the pub was the only place that had either the space or the cooler facility to store a body. And the family didn’t have far to go to mourn over their pints. Food and hardware items are required for living life, and every town had a pub so why not lump it all together? And it works so why change it?
You knew the tourists because we were the ones with the quizzical looks. Like, am I really seeing this? Can I really buy pizza pockets here and you’ll heat it up in the microwave while we wait for the Guinness to settle for the rest of the pour? Ok. And the next town we stopped in, years later, that had the same set up, I walked in and didn’t bat an eyelash because of course.
I tell you this because it’s a different approach to business. And your personal experiences and beliefs and skills, they might all come together to nudge you in a different direction than what’s considered the norm - in your field, your friends and family circle, your own head.
Like your voice, it’s hard to accept that initial phase of being deliberately different. It’s hard to just decide to do it and buck the trend until... it’s not. Because you’ve decided and you’re tired of thinking about it and talking about it and writing your lists for and against. You just decide to do it and then it becomes easy. Until you are hit with evidence that you are different, you’re doing it differently, and it’s making other people uncomfortable or question your decision making and it becomes hard again.
That fear, that level of difficulty is sometimes soul sucking. It can hit like a ton of bricks when you thought it was all going great and you were congratulating yourself for all of your awesomeness in backing your own capabilities and decisions.
This is where knowing yourself, your voice, your strengths, and I think most importantly, your limits or boundaries are important. Because if you know who you are and you feel comfortable in your skin, you know you’ll survive the judgement and the fear in the pit of your stomach. Because if you have boundaries, you’ll decide whose opinion matters and disregard the others that pile in.
I belong to a group for female podcasters and what I love in there is that we celebrate the first one star review. Because it’s inevitable that you are not going to be someone’s cup of tea. Someone will have a contrary opinion and they will feel entitled to share it, usually giving you a good taste of their voice, and it’s a sign of growth. When you first start up, your close friends will listen to support you. Maybe your mother. And they aren’t going to roast you publicly. But the danger with growth is that you grow. You get exposed to new people, to different concepts, to new ways of doing things and not all of it will go well.
But we can’t grow without those less-than-stellar experiences. And we must continue to grow. So we have to push ourselves. We decide which risks are worth taking and we take them. We have the power to choose to value our experiences, to be true to them, and use them as gifts. And we have to just... do it, whatever it is, as best as we can.
Because part of the fear is that judgement piece, and we might be able to have those boundaries around whose opinion actually matters to us but rarely do we exclude our own!
I don’t know about you but I am my own worst critic. I will flip flop several times on this episode. Will I publish it? And if I do, will I publicize it as much as I do other episodes? Will I be embarrassed about it in six months time? A year?
Maybe. Because to be honest, I’ve already done things on this podcast that have embarrassed me. I remind myself that I’ve done the best with what I had and what I knew at the time. I fix what I can when I have time and if it causes a big enough shudder when I think about it. But I leave a lot because time soothes my anxiety and people enjoy a journey. We all appreciate watching or listening as someone evolves, as they grow. We grow with them. And it makes us feel less different, to know someone else is squirming through their evolution, even if we’re evolving differently.
Because we do want to fit in. We want to be recognized as a part of a larger something. It’s primal and built into our brains to be a part of the larger group, safety in numbers and all of that. But there’s a mix possible, to having our own voice, our own way of doing things, our own standards and expectations, along with being part of something larger. Even if it’s something we need to create ourselves. I think that mix level ebbs and flows as we go through different periods in our life but we need to find the strength and the confidence to be who we are and adapt that into our business, whatever any of it turns out to be.
I’m not sure how I got here on this topic. It’s not my usual type of podcast. I’m usually rather structured with a point and this one had a loose moral to the story but not my typical fare. I guess I’m experimenting with trying out my own voice, letting my thoughts run. And I’m not sure if I was talking more to you or me throughout this one. Who knows. I know I flip flopped between you and me throughout. I hope you got something out of it. I hope you realize that there are times when we can settle and times we need to push, but through it all we need to be ourselves.
And if you're already clear on who you are, well, thanks for sticking through this whole thing. If you’re ready to start using that voice of yours in your marketing and PR, I invite you to take my masterclass on Creating your social media content strategy. I go through my process for creating messaging and aligned posts for my clients to use in their business facebook pages so you can do the same for you. This content can be repurposed for all of the feeds, the key is the messaging and you know I walk you through that! SO I’ll link to that in the shownotes or you can go to my website for more details, and I thank you again for listening today. I’ll be back next week, a year older, maybe wiser. Until then my friend.