In Robyn’s Shoes: From Shy to Shining

Name: Robyn Hatcher

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Where do you live? New York City, NY

What does it mean to have a voice?  To be able to express your true self and opinions with confidence.

How did you find your voice? In high school, I deliberately forced myself out of my shell by auditioning for a school play. 


What event or series of events led to you finding your voice?

I was one of the shyest children on the planet.  I didn’t speak to anyone who wasn’t in my immediate family. This included aunts and uncles I hadn’t seen in a while and one of those uncles started calling me “Shy.” It STUCK! Shy became my LITERAL nickname.

By the time I got to high school, I was growing tired of the role being shy had trapped me in. I started to feel uncomfortable with the constraints it put on me. When I was a freshman in my high school homeroom class, I looked around and realized I had an opportunity. I was at a brand new school in a brand new neighborhood. No one in that classroom new me as Shy. I could be whoever I wanted to be. One day I heard an announcement over the loudspeaker that changed the trajectory of my life. It was for auditions for a play being done by the boys’ school down the street. I knew what I had to audition for that play.

Tell me about when you finally found your voice.

That audition became my catalyst. I prepared for it by writing my own monologue and on the day of the audition, I unleashed every emotion I’d ever suppressed onto that stage. It was scary and liberating.

And I got the part.

Knowing what I now know about brain science, I know for a fact that play changed my life – literally. Rehearsing and performing that play every day actually changed the neural connections in my brain. From then on, it got easier for me to express myself, as myself. Each new person I encountered and new situation I entered, taught me more about myself. I was fortunate to meet some amazing people who continued to nurture and encourage me to speak up and speak out.

Define “voice” and why it is important?

To me, voice is both the expression of and the instrument used to express your true self, your firm beliefs, your personal opinions, and your purpose. Our “voices” are nuanced and have been created by a combination of our experiences and our biological natures. It’s so easy to have our voice silenced, especially as women. We are often raised to believe that other people’s voices are more important because of their status, their sex, their race or their economic standing. Or we are taught to think that having and using our voice is boastful or rude. Or we are brainwashed to parrot other people’s voices. I believe we all have important contributions to share in the world and each of our voices is important. To me having a voice is a metaphor for taking a stand, for being seen. The more we hear all the distinct and individual voices that exist, the less likely we may be to marginalize or stereotype people.

What advice do you have for someone trying to find their voice?

Decide what you want your voice to represent, how you want to express your truth, what path you want to create for yourself and start to visualize or act as if that has already happened.

There’s a saying in brain science, “what fires together, wires together.”

For 14 years, the neurons in my brain were firing and wiring together to create the shy Robyn path. It went like this : see a person or situation, react in a shy or reticent way. Then suddenly, I was in a situation where at every rehearsal or performance, my brain was firing and wiring in a different way : see a person or a situation, react in a powerful and assertive way. I was creating a whole new path – the not shy Robyn path. Eventually, the shy Robyn path got less use and became a bit overgrown and the outgoing path got deeper and deeper and easier to travel down.

So my advice is to create a new path for yourself and then look for opportunities to develop and practice new habits that you can fire and wire together.  It’s also important to identify and own your unique strengths and opinions so that when you use your voice, you are sure it’s connected to your values and what it is you believe in and stand for. The communication coach in me also recommends that you work on the actual instrument of your voice. In order to be heard and taken seriously, sometimes the actual pitch and tone of your voice may need developing. No matter how incredible what we have to say is, if it’s not delivered in a way that makes people trust and respect you, it may not have the results you crave. I’ve created a Vocal Workout CD that takes you through specific exercises to work on the quality of your vocal instrument. Additionally, I’m always available to answer questions and/or work with you.

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