Shortly after I finished my meditation, I went to peruse Facebook (big surprise, I know), and came across a link to an article about the enduring pain of childhood verbal abuse. I thought this was an amazing bit of serendipity and probably what I should talk about today.
I grew up in a household where praise was not easily thrown around. (Okay, it was never thrown around.) If I misbehaved, I was told that there was clearly something wrong with me – perhaps it was that fever I’d had when I was a child, perhaps I was just intrinsically bad. I was generally a well-behaved child, and any bad behavior was normal for a kid of my age, whether that age was 4 or 14. (And really, how bad could a 4 year old be that would warrant someone calling the recorded weather and saying, “Hello, police? I have a bad little girl here. Can you come and get her?” in a voice loud enough for the terrified 4-year-old to hear, resulting in said child groveling in tears at your feet???) This kind of approach led me into a cycle of shame that took me a very long time to get over. I worried that perhaps there was something wrong with me. That I was fooling everyone with my so-called “talent” and that I was a fraud.
Despite that upbringing, I grew up to make choices that my mother didn’t like – I went to college and graduate school for music, a field both parents disapproved of, I moved across country, I left a marriage that made me unhappy, I learned to drive stick shift (so unfeminine!), I dyed my hair auburn, I opened my own voice studio instead of settling for a day job – and I was and am happy. (Surprisingly, my not having children was never an issue.)
And I am very careful with my language with my students. I never want to shame anyone. Words have consequences. I’m honest with my students, but I always try to find the good in their efforts, even when I’m addressing vocal issues that need improvement. Sometimes I’ve slipped up. And often I’m not so careful with myself. But I’m working on it.