Last month I taped a segment with Fox News. I haven’t watched any of it and I don’t plan to.
When I tell people that, even my loved ones who understand me best, they seem puzzled because I’m not shy. I speak loudly with plenty of inflection, and I love trying to entertain other people and make them laugh. I make conversation with everyone from my Lyft driver to my dental hygienist. I’m an introvert, but my friends say I’m the most extroverted introvert there is.
But here’s the thing: I really don’t like how I sound. I’ve never gotten over my voice deepening so much when I was a teen. In a few short years I went from being a featured singer in the school choir to being mistaken for my dad when I picked up the phone. That’d be unsettling for anyone, but when you’re a petite five-foot-one woman, it definitely feels weird.
Disliking the sound of your own voice is not unique. It’s because we hear sounds differently when they come from inside ourselves. According to the Washington Post, hearing your voice or seeing your face from a second person perspective elicits a reaction similar to disgust. Time Magazine goes a step further and suggests hearing your recorded, unfamiliar-sounding voice is akin to body dysmorphia. Maybe one of my trans or nonbinary readers could weigh in?
Even so, I do not avoid opportunities to speak, and that’s why I think it’s hard to convince others that I don’t like my voice. I am on a lot of podcasts. I have been interviewed on the radio and for documentaries. I even sometimes enjoy public speaking, especially when it’s somewhere I feel comfortable, like when I gave a talk on my concept of Otaku Journalism at Crunchyroll Expo (which should be on YouTube pretty soon, but even when it is I won’t watch that either).
In short, I don’t have a great voice. I am not a naturally gifted public speaker, or somebody who started out liking it. But through time and practice, I’ve become somebody who can do it on command and even have fun.
I think we use “introvert” and “extrovert” as convenient excuses to avoid stuff, when they’re only labels meant to define your natural inclinations. There’s no reason an introvert can’t become a performer and there’s nothing preventing an extrovert from choosing and enjoying a more solitary profession, and letting their social side come out on weekends. I especially hate the smug memes about why introverts (it’s usually introverts) are secretly better.
The way I see it, we all have different strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes—and far more than you could fit into the two rigid categories of introvert and extrovert (or the eight personality types of Meyers Briggs, for example). These are good starting points, but they are not the end-all be-all of our personal definitions.
Yes, we are naturally better at some things and worse at others. But if we avoid the things we want to, we’ll never grow, we’ll never get better, and we’ll feel bad about the stuff we never did and wonder what might have been. Life in your comfort space is nice, and an excellent place to revisit when you’re overwhelmed, but if you spend all your time there, it gets boring.
I want to encourage you to be scared of things and still do them. Heck, to be bad at things and still try them! I’m trying to be a good example of this. Which is one of the reasons why I am in Japanese class, even with my bad accent and the fact that I have to study twice as much outside of class to keep up with everyone else. Which is why I run races even though I was always the slowest kid in gym class. Which is why I go on TV even when I’m scared to watch it and see how badly I definitely screwed it up.
It may sound like torture to fill your life with uncomfortable, difficult things, but you can start with one thing at a time. I don’t want to live a life where I limit myself to only doing the things I’m good at, and I don’t think you want to, either. To quote Jake the Dog in Adventure Time, sucking at something is the first step to becoming sort of good at something. What will you try today?
P.S. In the time since I wrote this, I signed a contract to do a writing + acting gig. I haven’t acted since high school, so I’ll keep you posted on how that turns out.