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Episode 10: Confidence Comes from Doing

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Confidence Comes from Doing

Generally, the more we do something, the better we get at it and the more confident we feel. A baby learning to walk is a really obvious example. 

But when it comes to speaking and singing in public, we often imagine that increased confidence will come from taking a huge risk, and then we wonder why we get stuck.

Let’s talk about some smaller, more manageable steps that will build confidence faster than any big scary leap.

You can subscribe to Can’t Wait to Hear You wherever you get podcasts.  If you have a question about your voice or how you’re using it, please email 

Our music is thanks to Katya and Ada.
The show is edited by K.O. Myers at Particulate Media.


Your voice is unique to you. It grows as you grow. It changes as you change. If you’re curious about the relationship between your voice and your body, your heart and your mind, welcome. My name is Michèle Voillequé and I can’t wait to hear you. 

Today I want to talk about the idea that confidence comes from doing and how we can get ourselves tied into knots around that. And offer maybe a way to loosen those knots up, or maybe not get so knotted up in the first place.

So the idea that confidence comes from doing is really obvious, I think, when you think about a baby learning to walk. When you were learning to walk, when I was learning to walk, we fell down a lot. Or somebody learning to ride a bike, you fall down a lot. Or learning to ski, we fall down a lot. And then we get up, and we try again, and we try again, and we try again.

And… falling down is a surprise, right? Learning what gravity is comes to most of us as a surprise. But when we’re small, it’s not as embarrassing. Somehow we’re just, it’s easier for us to understand that we’re just learning how to do something. We’re just learning about gravity. We’re just exploring.

But as we get older, falling down gets more and more embarrassing. Like, there’s something wrong with us because we didn’t manage gravity well. We didn’t react fast enough to avoid the parked car on our bike, or we skidded on the turn, or we spun around on the dance floor and ended up on our butt. Not that that’s ever happened to me, of course. But I’ve just heard, I’ve heard that things like that can happen.

And when we’re older, we feel like, when it comes to gravity, we should be better at this. Gravity’s been here our whole lives, and the older we get, the more time we’ve had with it. So, really, we should be better at gravity by now. 

And it’s true that, at least on Earth for now, gravity is a constant, unchanging thing. But you and I have been changing. Our relationship to gravity has changed throughout our lives, and it’s, it will continue to change throughout our lives.

So, going back to when we were babies, we crawled, we pulled ourselves up to standing, we cruised alongside the table. And then one day, and maybe even all of a sudden, we found ourselves crossing the room towards somebody who had their arms extended toward us, their arms outstretched, waiting to receive us. 

And probably several times we fell down, but one of those days we didn’t. We crossed the room into somebody’s arms, and we didn’t fall, and we walked. And the grownups rejoiced.

In that moment, when we’re toddling across the room into the arms of somebody who loves us, we’re borrowing their confidence. We’re borrowing that confidence until we have some of our own, some experience that tells us we can do this.

And so that’s, that’s where our confidence comes from – from walking. Confidence comes from doing, comes from failing and failing and failing and failing, and eventually doing. So I hope that’s pretty easy to get.

Where we get tied up in knots is when we start thinking about performing or working on our voices. We can hear the instruction that confidence comes from doing, and think that that means that we need to sign up to audition for something, or we need to schedule a big presentation so we can gain confidence.

And, maybe, but I’m going to say those ideas, rather than being small steps, are actually huge leaps. And it’s not really a surprise when we start procrastinating those ideas. Oh, we can’t find a show to audition for. Oh, or whatever. The list of excuses kind of builds up for why we’re not doing that thing.

And we’re not doing that thing that’s going to build our confidence. That story turns into, we don’t have time or we’re not ready yet. Or we need to wait until we feel more confident.

We devise this scheme to feel more confident by taking on a big project, by taking a big step, and then we don’t take it because we don’t feel confident.

And there’s so much truth in that, like, you really don’t have any reason to feel confident. It’s too big a step. It’s like asking a baby who’s barely pulled themselves to standing to walk across the living room. They don’t have the confidence, in part, because they don’t have the skill. And that, that’s true for us too.

So, all of this is kind of reminding me of Bill Gates’s quote, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in 10 years.”

And I’m also thinking of David White’s poem, Start Close In. The beginning goes like this. “Start close in. Don’t take the second step or the third. Start with the first thing, close in, the step you don’t want to take.”

So let me give you an example of how this might apply to real life. The small steps that build confidence rather than planning a big leap. Before I do, I want to say big leaps aren’t bad. They’re just bad if you’re using them to beat up on yourself. But, let’s talk about small steps.

So, for example, say you’re in this moment: your voice gets tired easily. You’re a soft-spoken person. You’re comfortable in your field. You have presentations to give. You’re not anxious about the presentations, but you’ve noticed that they’re really tiring. And you’re vaguely aware that you could be speaking more powerfully, but you’re also the collaborative type. You’ve got amazing ideas, but you don’t want to sound bombastic, right? You don’t want to sound overpowering.

You know you could speak with more tone, but when you’ve tried to project or do what you think people mean when they say “project,” you feel more tired. You feel less like yourself, like you’re forcing something, like that kind of speaking isn’t sustainable.

But you have to give presentations. Maybe you even want to give presentations so that your work can reach more people, so you can find more collaborators, so you can do more good in the world. And to be really clear, the problem isn’t about feeling uncomfortable with the people or the topic. You know that it’s something about how you’re using your body. This is a complaint I’ve heard more than once.

So let me suggest that you forget about talking for a minute and just take a breath. And as you’re taking your next breath, feel the full width of your back. Maybe stretch your arms above your head, lean from side to side, and feel how tall your trunk can feel, how long your sides can feel, from your armpit to your hip.

Take a couple more breaths, breathe in, and feel your back again. Notice that your head might actually naturally move back a bit when you think about breathing into your back.

When you can feel the width of your back, you might feel your neck lengthen and your head move back onto the top of your spine rather than jutting forward.

Most of us go through our days with our chins and our heads a little too far forward. It comes from looking at the computer, from staring over the steering wheel, from slouching, craning your neck to be heard, right? 

Bringing your chin and your mouth closer to your audience brings your head further away from your spine, and that puts more stress on your vocal folds.

So as we’re sitting here breathing and feeling the width of your back, what do you feel emotionally when you’re thinking about breathing into the full width of your back? 

Do you feel bigger or more solid, calmer, broad, maybe powerful or empowered? Just notice what you feel emotionally when you breathe into the full width of your back. 

Your lungs are balloons, right? So they’re expanding forward and to the side and into the back. So I’m not talking about limiting the forward or the sideways expansion. I’m just asking that you pay particular attention to the back.

Because most of us never have to think about this in regular life. Most of us aren’t aware of how our breath feels when we’re breathing. And that’s, that’s a great gift, actually. But when you’re working on your voice, it’s good to feel into how does the breathing feel?

So, you can start this practice with just ten breaths. Or set a timer for a minute and your only goal is to breathe and feel the width of your back and notice yourself as you’re doing that. 

Notice what you feel emotionally, notice what you feel physically, notice that your head can be better aligned on the top of your spine.

I’m suggesting you broaden your back, because a voice spoken with a broad sense of the back doesn’t get tired as easily as one that is constricted in the back, or slouchy in the back, or rounded in the back. 

So if you’re soft-spoken and your voice is getting tired, and you’ve tried “projecting,” see that word in air quotes, and it hasn’t worked for you, experience tells me you’re probably not aware of the back of your lungs. 

Experience tells me you probably need to create more space there and to use more air. And so I’m encouraging you to broaden your back to feel into your true size, the true width and breadth of you.

Because you can be your true size and not intimidate people. I myself have spent a lot of time trying to make myself smaller so that other people would feel more comfortable. 

And my students and people just I know in the world, I see tall people making themselves shorter, and smart people making themselves smaller and cuter, and short people making themselves larger, reaching and craning their neck.

We’re all a little uncomfortable with our size at one point or another. And maybe most of your life you’ve been uncomfortable with your size or your shape or just this body that you were born with.

So, just to sum up, if you’re looking to speak using better tone, if you’re looking to find a way to project your voice that doesn’t feel exhausting and that feels authentic to you, who you are as a person, start with a practice of feeling the width of your back when you breathe, really, 10 breaths. Or one minute, maybe a couple of times a day.

And then begin to notice the width of your back before you speak. And feel into what it’s like to maintain awareness of your back, your 360 degree lung expansion, your ribcage’s reaction to your lungs expanding. See if you can become bit by bit, a little more aware of that over time.

And these small steps of building awareness and building confidence in you holding yourself slightly bigger will result in you almost unconsciously, naturally supporting your voice more, and will help you trust that you can communicate with care, you can communicate in a collaborative way, you can share your creativity and your interest in a topic with a tone of voice that doesn’t sound forced, and that doesn’t wear you out.

You don’t have to slouch to make yourself more approachable. You don’t have to dumb your ideas down to make them understood. The world is going to be so much better off when you can show up full-voiced, wide-backed, and at ease in your body.

So it’s still true that confidence comes from doing. When you can make the doing small, digestible, bite sized, non-threatening, and you can do that consistently, you will gain confidence faster than you could have imagined.

Thanks so much for listening.

If you enjoyed today’s episode, please rate and review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen. Every positive review helps new people find the show. Subscribing ensures you’ll learn about new episodes as soon as they come out. If you have a question about singing or speaking or being, please send me an email at

That’s letters at M as in Mary, V as in Victor, M U S I 

Transcripts and show notes are available on my website. You can subscribe to my newsletter there, too. Can’t Wait to Hear You is produced in conjunction with Particulate Media. I’m your host, Michèle Voillequé. I can’t wait to hear you.

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