Does Criticism From Childhood Still Act as a Barrier to Sharing Your Voice Today?

I believe in the power of words. I try to be ultra-care-filled with the words I choose and how I use them.

I do find that regardless of how care-filled I am currently, sometimes the criticism that I heard as a child sticks with me, even if the meaning of the words was never, and is no longer, ‘true’.

Can you relate to that?  Did you hear criticism as a child that is still a barrier to your choosing to create and share something now? 

Part of my personal journey is learning not to repeat that criticism in my current self-talk and to take the time to understand why it was shared and how it doesn’t fit. Understanding the energy of it dissolves the power it has over me.

When I was a child, my dad was a musician and my younger half-sister had a beautiful singing voice and I was (and still am) pretty much tone-deaf. I think I’m singing along well – I have the words, inflection and enthusiasm – but, really my voice is not at all close to where it should be to fit the tone of the song.

Time and again, it would happen that they would be singing and I would attempt to sing-along and be laughed at and told I really can’t sing. They really could sing, so I felt their criticism must have been correct and after a while, I learned to just be quiet and listen (and hum along inside).

Even now, I won’t sing out loud – I will do car-karaoke with my kids (I *love* car karaoke!), but only when I am sure we aren’t near other cars or people who can hear me. If someone asks, I just say “I can’t sing”. (It also occurs to me that I never took voice lessons or had instruction because I was convinced I royally sucked and there was no helping me at all! Of course, that was a story in my mind, but that’s how much of a barrier this is for me. Maybe I can sing – but I just stopped trying!)

I have also read so many cartoons and ‘funny sayings’ about the person behind you at church, singing their heart out, but off-key, and those around the person laughing and cringing, with the idea that you do not ever want to be that person.

I am that person, so sometimes while in a sacred gathering – even though I love the song and my heart is fully into the worship aspect – I might still barely whisper, because I don’t want to take away from the enjoyment of the people around me.

With all of *that*, I went to church this morning because they were hosting a chanting session, and I love chanting! It lights my entire being!

I still have a deep cough and laryngitis, so I figured the lovely chanting of those around me would be enough to cover my throaty whisper. (And, if people did judge me, they would understand anything ‘less than perfect’ because my sore throat is obvious!).

The session was 45 minutes. The facilitator would sing the chant, then we would respond by repeating the chant. I made sure to sit in the back row, close to the door, in case I was overcome by a coughing spell and had to leave (and because then my voice would be on the outskirts, not directly in the middle!).

I lost myself in the words and the energy of it all. My heart felt light (which is what I wanted – yes!).There was a man behind me, singing very loudly and very ‘off-key’. His voice was so loud that sometimes it drowned out all of the others.  He wasn’t singing consistently – only when something really touched him, then he would belt out the words with so much love, passion and joy in his voice.

Well, you know how sometimes in church, or a social setting, the facilitator wants to set and hold a certain mood? It felt like that – like everyone was being so careful to ‘get it right’ and he was responding with love, in a setting of love, but it wasn’t like all of the others were doing, it was his own way, from his own heart.

I *loved* that he was so open with his voice and full of passion – it inspired me to open my heart beyond the internal criticism singing voice loop that acts as a barrier and to sing. I actually energetically sent gratitude for his presence, because if he wasn’t there, I might not have participated and participating was just what my body and being needed (especially after being sick – I needed that spirit boost!).

The whole experience meant so much to me, that I wanted to share it here, via my site – in the ‘down times’ I was capturing the feel of the energy to share in an article later. My mind was playing with words about my experience of still hearing that criticism from youth in my head and allowing it to become a barrier to full, and fun, expression now and then choosing to open through it to sing. (I seem to quite consistently compose articles in my head, especially when I am centered and full of spirit!).

I kept thinking how grateful I was to the man for singing and how grateful I am for all who choose to use their voice in their own unique ways, in all areas of the arts, because that is truly what inspires me to keep exploring, and using, mine.

I kept thinking how important it is for us to share our voices, and to use our voices to build up, encourage, inspire, celebrate, connect with and appreciate one another. 

Each voice is so different in tone, quality and idea and each voice matters so very much. Yet sometimes we shush each other or we shush ourselves and really what a travesty that is. And, I re-committed to sharing my voice in all of the ways it wishes to be shared.

Then, I noticed in the lull between chants, as people were basking in the collective energy, that a man stood up and went and spoke to the man behind me. I don’t know what he said, but I do know the man behind me was silent for the rest of the service. I’m not sharing this to judge the man who silenced the singer, I am simply sharing that it happened, right when I was celebrating the man’s presence and voice, he was silenced.

Then, I had a moment of heart pain and I became too embarrassed to sing. I just mouthed the words in barely a whisper. I figured my voice is far worse than the man’s behind me, and I couldn’t bear it if someone came over and shushed me. So, I shushed myself. (oooh. I know!)

(And, I was reminded of the power of thought, that yes, what we think about does grow. I was thinking about criticism of my singing voice and of people singing off-key at church and then being silenced and it manifested in my space! Of course, there were other dynamics weaving into the experience, but still!)

It was weird because each chant was about being love, being connected in and celebrating a community of love, remembering our essence energy. And I kept thinking if one isn’t ‘safe’ to share here in this sacred space, where is one safe to share?

Gosh, why do people judge one another – and what can we do to eliminate that?

I fully understand that was one man, not the entire church. I don’t know who else saw or experienced that energy, but I know those around me had to have noticed the absence of the passionate man’s voice.

I wish I could tell you that I centered, gathered courage and sang strong enough for both of us, but I didn’t. I kept quiet. I wish I could tell you that I got up, told the man thank you for singing and that he inspired me and I appreciate him. But, when the service was over he was gone.

If I turn this inward, then I can see with great clarity there are other areas in life where I keep quiet because I don’t want to be criticized or shushed. 

While I have and will always, always, always, use my voice to stand up for someone being physically abused or in a dynamic with a narcissist or someone who is in emotional pain and could use reminding of the power of love, I won’t always share my joy and passion in a room where I am not sure it will be accepted or appreciated. That’s mine to work on, and I am.

Dear Reader: It was on my heart to share this with you, to see if you understand and if you have any spaces in your life where you are hesitant to use your voice – or if criticism from your youth still affects your desire to create something in a specific area now in life. Let’s talk about this together  – please share your comments and experience in the comment section below.

Again, I don’t want to bash the ‘silencer man’, I want to focus on our personal experiences of using our voice. (But I would ask that you think twice before silencing yourself or another, please!) And I want to wrap it all in love, because really that is what will inspire us to keep using our voices.

This subject of voice, and using it, fascinates me for many reasons. One is that I have a quiet voice in tone and people (meaning my dad and, pretty consistently through life, loud males with large presence) used to criticize me for speaking so quietly. It would anger him (and them) to have to lean in to hear what I was saying. Instead of learning to be louder, though, I learned my way with words and how to put energy into them, so I have had the life-long experience of being quiet in tone, yet strong in message. That took (still takes) some courage on my part, but I understand how to use my voice effectively when I want to. And, I love sharing audio messages via Soundcloud – I invite you to check out my account if you’d like.

Two is that I was raised with abuse and that patterning stayed with me through adulthood, until I intentionally unraveled and re-created it. It’s common for the abuser to convince you not to tell; what I know from experience and study is that part of being talked into silence often results in increased shame which keeps you stuck in the cycle.

If this subject of voice fascinates you, too, you might be interested in a free collaborative ebook that I wrote a couple of years ago “Cultivating Your Voice“. For more information, and to download your copy, simply click the title link.

Learning to use your voice, to share your experiences (in general, not just in abuse) dissolves shame and increases connection. For example, have you ever had an experience where you think you are the only one who just experienced something horrible, and the whole thing sucked and you feel you made a trillion mistakes and you just sit in that shame and despair? ….. and then, you gather the courage to tell someone and they say, to your surprise, something similar happened to them or someone they love and they understand? Then, you no longer feel so *wrong* and you are able to concentrate on healing and growing, and it’s all because you chose to use your voice.

This is really powerful stuff, which is why I’d love to discuss it together and am looking forward to all that you choose to share about your experience!

Thank you for your presence!

Much peace and abundant love,


If you’d like guidance and support working through patterning and/or choosing to use and share your voice (or anything else having to do with presence and energy movement), I do offer personal empowerment sessions. I have a variety of packages from one-hour to one-month and email clarity to Skype consultations.

Related Posts:

Comments on: "Does Criticism From Childhood Still Act as a Barrier to Sharing Your Voice Today?" (6)

  1. Joy Johnson said:

    Thank you so much for being so honest about still having trouble speaking out. It helped release a little more of my guilt around the same thing.

    • Thank *you* for your presence and for sharing, Joy! Many people feel guilt about not using their voice in specific experiences – however, guilt adds to the pain and potential disconnect. When you notice guilt, it’s a great time to thank yourself for your awareness, so you can make a different choice in the future if you wish, *and* to turn understanding, compassion and love inward. The reason we don’t always use our voice is there is patterning or a wounded space within that has become a barrier, so that understanding, love and compassion helps heal a bit of that tenderness and invites peace and possibility into the experience.

      It’s also great to notice and thank ourselves for the times we *do* use our voices, which then encourages us to keep using it!

  2. Thanks Joy, for sharing your experiences. When I feel safe, I can speak up just fine, but when I feel unsafe or different from everyone else in the room, then I get quiet. I always tend to judge myself for that but maybe I will be better at not judging in the future. When it is something I really believe in, I do speak up, but I really like to have time to prepare exactly what I want to say and maybe even read it if I can,

    • Thank you for sharing, Jean! So many of us share this with you *when I feel unsafe or different from everyone else in the room, then I get quiet.”

      Part of opening that up, internally, is to understand that our voice, and what we share and the way we share it, may be inspiration, encouragement or affirmation for another on their path and with-holding it means we miss the opportunity for fullness of connection.

      I absolutely understand taking time to prepare your words – that amplifies the feeling of ‘readyness’ and the confidence to share.

  3. Joy! I’ve been ‘away’…unplugged from online connections near and far for some time it seems, yet in the interim experienced just what I was seeking and needed in developing closer *in person* relationship(s) that have taught me so much on these topics you speak to now, so I find it, once again, *beautifully synchronous* that I have come to your website again to read this and your previous article just today. I am filled, as i often am when reading your words, with joyful exuberance and re-affirmation of my current path of finding and speaking and living my truth, fully, and with passion and both balance and no compromise at the same time. It’s been a challenging journey at times over these past few years especially, but when I look back at where I’ve come from, I am amazed I am the same person.

    I can so easily relate with this story in so many ways, both because of similar experiences and because I’ve spent my life with the near opposite issue that you describe- a *loud* presence and voice- a *too talkative* or * too loud* voice and presence that has been shushed for much of my life, a love of singing yet shame in being heard and judged ‘less than’, and many moments of feeling silenced and ridiculed because of my natural tendencies. Now, experiencing for the first time a close personal relationship where I am not only supported in being fully who I am and expressing that fully, but also being encouraged to explore and use my voice (whether verbally or in writing), to share my own stories, and being accepted as I am, not being told I am, *too much* in any way- I can honestly say, it is the most freeing experience of my adult life and I feel myself blossoming under that care in every way. Does it alleviate all my fears, built up by year’s of negative conditioning? No. Does it make me easily share my voice as I feel compelled to always? Not exactly. It still feels awkward and scary and I still have a lot of those self-judgement voices to contend with quite often, yet despite this, I am still emboldened to continue finding and speaking my voice, sharing my love and dreams with the world, and learning to support other’s in developing and sharing their dreams and voices as well. It’s a beautiful magic that happens when we feel supported in being ourselves. I’ve felt that in my relationship with you, and I feel it so deeply now that I know the time has come to believe in myself as much as I am believed in by others…see myself through the eyes of love, as I always attempt to see others.

    • Hi Molly,

      It’s a lovely surprise to ‘see’ you here – welcome back!

      I am so glad you are feeling joy in your connections and it is wonderful that you feel you are blossoming! I know you have done lots of inner work and transitioning and I bet that this newfound depth of love is related to the practices you have been doing in regards to self-love.

      I agree, *it is a beautiful magic when we feel supported in being ourselves*! We can each read what you have shared here and turn it inward to see if where we can hold an intention to be and feel this magic!

      Thank you for the kind words – I receive them joyfully!

Please share your voice: "Does Criticism From Childhood Still Act as a Barrier to Sharing Your Voice Today?"

When you share, we learn!