Long ago, I loved singing. I thought I was quite good, not professional quality, surely, but passable. I was in my church choir, and regularly put on living room concerts with my sisters where we sang and did choreography to my parent’s record collection. At one point, I knew every lyric on Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, and The Golden Hits of Lesley Gore albums. I even had dreams of being a rock star and wanted to learn to play the guitar. Then my life drastically changed.
I was singing along with the radio in my bedroom one day. Surprisingly, I don’t even remember what song, but I was belting it out and having a great time doing it.
My mother came into my room and said, “Your voice is terrible.”
What mother does that?
It was crushing. Not only to my self confidence, of which I had so little to begin with, but it crushed my very soul. It almost crushed my love of music.
She left and I turned off the radio and sobbed as quietly as possible into my pillow because I’d be damned if she would find out how her words hurt me.
Her criticism changed my life. I no longer wanted to sing in front of anyone. Ever again. I was still in choir, but kept my head down and mouthed the words. I still loved music, but never sang along to it anymore, unless it was in my room alone and very quietly. I would never sing in front of my friends, family, or significant others.
Fast forward thirty years. I love music more than ever, and even started a band with my friends. I play the bass guitar. I write punk songs. We perform in public, and I love it.
So, do I sing in my band?
One time our vocalist wasn’t able to make rehearsal, and my bandmate asked me to sing one of our covers, “She” by Green Day. It was the first time I had ever sang into a microphone. It was terrifying and traumatic and I could hardly hear myself. My bandmates thought my voice was just fine. I was paralyzed with fear and refused to do it again.
I sing in my car. Alone. I belt out the lyrics to my favorite songs putting on sold out car concerts all the time. But I doubt I will ever sing in public, not even a punk song.
Those four words my mother uttered so long ago scarred me for life. The worst part of it is, I would bet that she doesn’t remember saying them, and if she did, she would deny it. It kills me that I have hung on to those words for so long. And believe them yet to this day. But I don’t know how to rid myself of them. I don’t know how to heal the hurt either.
Here’s your take away:
Words matter. How we say those words matter. Please choose yours carefully.