Listening to Your Own Voice

I stage managed a play a few years ago called A Doll’s House, Part 2, by Lucas Hnath. It is a modern sequel to Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, which tells the story of the marriage between Torvald and Nora Helmer. When Torvald finds out that Nora secretly procures a loan, he reacts with outrage, causing Nora to declare her independence, slamming the door on their marriage and children. Part 2 takes place a number of years later. Nora comes back to her old home to finalize a divorce from Torvald, and in the process, the audience sees her interactions with other members of the family, including her abandoned daughter. It is a wonderful piece of theatre, one that is worth many lively discussions after you’ve seen it.

My favorite part of the show comes towards the end. Nora is telling Torvald what she did after she left, how she spent numerous years trying to find herself, in the real sense of the phrase, by isolating in an abandoned shack for two years. “And even though I was living by myself…I could hear a voice in the back of my head that either sounded like you or my father or the pastor or any number of other people I knew…. And so, as long as that continued, I’d decided that I’d live in silence, not speaking and avoiding the speaking of others–and I’d live like this until I couldn’t remember what other people sounded like–until I no longer heard a voice in my head other than my voice or what I was certain had to be my voice.” Nora continues to explain that after she began to hear her own voice, she was able to begin to know herself better, to know what things she wanted, things she loved.

And then my favorite line. “It’s really hard to hear your own voice, and every lie you tell makes your voice harder to hear, and a lot of what we do is lying. Especially when what we want so badly from other people is for them to love us.”

For such a long time in my life, I have listened to “the other.” My parents telling me what I should do, teachers telling me what I should do, bosses telling me what I should do, friends telling me what I should do–hell, even acquaintances and people I don’t really like all that much have taken up space inside my head. It is ridiculously hard to hear your own voice, especially when it’s being drowned out by a thousand others on Twitter. But it is so important to listen. So important to quiet those other voices and become intimately acquainted with your own.

A book I highly recommend to help learn who you are and start listening to your own voice is Don’t Do Stuff You Hate by Isaac Morehouse and Mitchell Earl. In a chapter called, “When You’re Tempted to Not Be Yourself,” they say, “The Other is anything and everything that does not come from within. It’s all the great ideas, people, tasks and activities bombarding me from without. They’re all wonderful things, and nothing by expressions of the agency of others. Yet they’re not me, and if I internalize or interact with them in any way that has a responsive orientation, I become trapped.” All of these other voices can begin to fall by the wayside when you begin to listen to your own voice. And the louder your voice gets, the more true to yourself you become.

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