If you’ve not seen it, The Voice UK is a talent show for singers. The premise is very simple, and very different from say The X Factor – the judges don’t face the stage during the performance. They can turn only if they like what they hear. The person singing can be male, female, trans, white, black, overweight, underweight, young, old, in a wheelchair, whatever. The judges have no idea until they turn around.
The contestants are judged on ability alone.
For me, being online is like being on The Voice, minus the terrifying performance anxiety. Until last year, I never took a selfie, because I hated how I looked and didn’t want people judging. Saying the things I’ve heard over and over since I was a teen. There was a photo of me online, on Amazon and my author website, but only because that was the Done Thing. Had I been able to avoid it, I would have.
There came a point in raising my kids that I lost myself. I was identified as my parents’ daughter, my husband’s wife or my children’s mother. Now those things are good and I love my family, but when they’re all you are known for? When your name is never mentioned? It erodes your being. Your self-confidence. I got to the point where those things were a mask, with the real me hiding in plain sight.
Then we got our first computer and internet access. You can be anything online, which yes can often be problematic. But it can also be life-saving because you can be yourself.
No one sees me when I’m online. I don’t have to paint on a smile when I’m down. I don’t have to laugh when I want to cry. I don’t feel like I have to be the Dutiful Daughter, the Perfect Wife, the Homely Mother. I can be myself, warts and all. I’m judged by my voice – the words I write – and not what I look like. What society thinks I should be. And that is so liberating.
Had I not discovered the internet, I’d not discovered fanfic. How writing words made me feel like an entire person. How fandoms are made of people who are different and yet the same. How welcoming those worlds are. I’d not have rediscovered myself and found a voice that was purely my own. I’d not have the self-confidence I have now.
Last Saturday I watched a gorgeous, large lady walk out on set, shaking with nerves. In the VT that ran before she sang, she spoke about how singing was her lifeline and how it was all she was good at. My heart broke a little, because that was my song to a different tune. “GO ON GIRL!” I yelled at the TV, willing her to put that love into her voice. And by God she did. And all four judges turned.
There is power is stripping away what society expects. Cut through the crap and embrace yourself.