Using Your Voice to Create Connection
“Are you dog fearing?” Bob asked, setting down his sandwich and looking at me with startling blue-gray eyes.
“Dog fearing?” I shook my head, not understanding.
“Yeah, you know. Dog fearing…” he repeated.
My friend Alice put her hand on my arm, “That’s his way of asking if you are God fearing…if you, you know? Believe in God.”
It was the summer after high school, I was on a cross-country road trip with my best friend and two of her family’s friends. We’d spent nearly two days already in Bob’s lemon-yellow VW bus, crossing the vast emptiness of Nebraska, slowly climbing the slate gray mountains of Colorado. We were headed to Taos, New Mexico to help facilitate a cultural exchange program for teenagers from our small Iowa hometown.
God fearing? I recoiled. Did he think I was some sort of small town, small minded fanatic? Some sort of Sunday churchgoing, narrow-minded racist like so many people I couldn’t stand?
My face grew hot. “No!” I bit back, staring into my plate.The conversation shifted, and I fell silent.
The truth was I didn’t know if I believed in God or not. But all I believed myself to be – a socially conscious, intelligent, curious young woman hungry to meet new people and study at one of the most diverse colleges in the country – stayed stuck at the top of my throat.
Why couldn’t I say anything else?
Looking back, I know it was fear that kept me silent. Fear of speaking up, of being seen. Bob was a photographer, and his friend, a folk singer. They were the kind of people I had instantly felt at home with. They were creative and open-minded, making their way in the world on their own terms. In short, I idolized them.
Speaking the truth of what you think, of who you are, is always vulnerable. When you share what matters to you or what you are feeling, there is always a fear of being seen and of being judged as somehow not measuring up.
So, I stayed quiet. I hid.
I would have liked to think I had grow out of this habit of hiding. But it took years, in some cases decades, of trying to fit in and learn the rules, years of figuring out what to say and how to say it, before I realized how unhappy that was making me.
I had become a master of fitting in, of hiding true self. And, in the process, I lost my ability to feel at home.
I see this all the time in my business. So many coaches, healers and other creative entrepreneurs go into business for themselves because they want to help others and they want to express their authentic selves through their calling.
Their business is a profoundly personal mission. And yet when it comes to marketing, they struggle.
It feels difficult. They hide behind a persona. They show up in their marketing as the person they think they should be. They adapt their message to whatever they think a ‘good coach’ or ‘a great healer’ looks and sounds like. They fill their Instagram feed with sun-dappled beach shots or their Facebook feed with scripted walks in the woods - not because those things make their souls sing, but because they think that’s what they should be doing.
What you need to know is that people are attracted to you, the real you.
People are longing for authenticity in their lives, and maybe even more so in business. In a world overrun with icky marketing practices, genuine authenticity is magnetic. I see it all the time. When you transmit your essence, your unique self through your marketing, people sense your genuineness, your wholeness, and are more willing to trust you.
You need to be YOU in your marketing.
And yes, that can feel scary.
And it can make you feel like hiding.
But it’s also what gives you joy and makes your business feel like home.
At that roadside restaurant high in the Rockies, I left a whole world unsaid and a big part of me unshared. Looking back, I wished I’d been able to laugh at the question and tell them what I was thinking. I wished I’d been able to share my dreams for the future and create a deeper connection.
It’s taken me years to learn how to use my voice in my life and in my business, and I’m not about to stop now.
It’s only in sharing the deepest parts of ourselves that we connect with one another. It’s only in connecting with one another that we’re allowed to drink in all beauty the world has to offer.
Diane Douiyssi is owner of Inner Wisdom Wayfinding and is a marketing and certified Martha Beck wayfinder life coach. She helps coaches, healers and creative entrepreneurs create programs, services and marketing messages that align with authentic selves so their ideal clients can find them. She also leads reflective writing workshops, where she gathers women together to use writing as a pathway to greater self-discovery. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.