This is something I think about all the time when it comes to my voice, and now I'm going to share it here in my blog with all of you. It often enlightens me when I take time to think of my voice as a living being, in a way, like one of my children, or even like my own "inner child." I often think of how the "rules" about how to treat a living being apply to how I treat my voice. I often also think about how the "rules" of being a good parent apply to "raising my voice" to maturity.
I have heard repeated and quoted this notion that Leontyne Price has said she is in love with her voice. Some people "get" this and admire it, others think it is a little weird. But I think it is profound and there are many ways of looking at it.
For one thing, there is a saying "Love your neighbor as your self." All the psychologists remind us all the time of our tendency to overlook the "love your self" part of the equation and tell us that we have failed to understand what that part means. You hear it over and over again, the inverse of this saying: "You can't love others until you love yourself, so you better learn how to love yourself."
At first, this sounds really great. I have permission to love myself. Cool! I can't wait to just focus on me and me and me. Now I can make myself happy and forget all about this pleasing others stuff.
Loving one's self, however, is not all wine and roses. Loving yourself is hard work. It is rolling up your sleeves and taking responsibility for the needs of the loved one. Loving yourself means taking the time out for love. Love means going to a bit of trouble. Loving one's self means toiling a little bit. When I love myself, I take care of myself. I make sure that I eat right. That's part of loving myself. I make sure that I get rest. That's part of loving myself. I make sure that I am bathed and groomed. I make sure I don't do things that can harm me. I make sure I listen to myself and don't make myself do things that are against my conscience. I don't speak harshly to myself, I encourage myself, I challenge myself, I help myself to be the best me I can, I support my self's passions and dreams, etc...
Then, once I know how to love myself, I move on to loving others, and I hope I can do the same thing for others that I am doing for myself. I learn how to love others by learning how to love myself. I can go on to love a partner, and extend that to loving my children, and doing all those things listed above for my children. In fact, I think that the way I have learned and practiced loving myself is going to be the way I love my children. If I am harsh and critical of myself, I will tend to be harsh and critical of my children (and of my voice). If I am impatient with myself, I will tend to be impatient of my children (and of my voice). If I have no tolerance for human flaws in my self, I will not tolerate flaws in my children (and my voice).
Well, I think that loving one's voice, like loving one's children, is an extension of loving one's self. Again, it's not all wine and roses. It's not a narcissistic kind of love I'm talking about either (because narcissism is really self loathing in disguise). I am talking about a respect for one's voice. Eating right, resting, not abusing one's voice, but treating it gently. Not placing too many demands on the voice, giving it space so that it doesn't get stressed. Listening to the voice when it tells you you are not treating it right. Listening to the voice when it tells you it doesn't want to sing the way you are trying to make it sing. It also means having a little faith. Just like we have to have faith in ourselves, we have to have a little faith in our voices. We have to believe that it's all going to work out.
Another part of loving your voice is accepting your voice as it is. You may want to improve your voice and help it to achieve it's potential, but you must also accept your voice simply in the state you find it. That's part of love too. There is a book by Barry Kaufman called Love is to Be Happy With. This is an example of one of those titles that kind of says it all. Loving one's voice means to be happy with it.
Now the part for the voice being like one's child. We parents have this way of developing expectations for our children. In the same way we can develop expectations for our voices. When our children fail to live up to these expectations, we can feel disappointment. Our children can sense this disappointment and they can tend to get discouraged or give up. That can happen to our voices as well.
The best thing to do with our children, with our voices, and with ourselves is to provide what they need to be healthy and strong, and then step back and give them the space to find their way. Give them the space to explore. Give them the space to discover, without any pressure, who and what they were truly meant to be. We have to allow our selves to find our own greatness. We have to allow our children to find their own greatness. We have to allow our voices to find their own greatnesses.