It’s #BlackCountryDay today, and therefore I thought it an apt time to talk about my journey of accepting my background and learning to love it, as opposed to shying away from it – which I’ve done for many years. For those who know me personally, you’ll know I struggle enormously with my accent, and the way it makes me feel. Despite moving out at 18 and living in cities and towns up and down the UK, I’ve never been able to shake my thick Black Country accent (and that’s not for lack of trying – trust me).
I remember writing a blog post a few years ago, asking whether my accent really matters in my job. It received so much positive feedback and it did marginally help me on my way to accepting who I am and where I come from. However, I’ve never been able to completely alleviate the feeling that my accent makes me sound like the most unintelligent person in the room.
I know, of course, deep down that this is nonsense – most of my friends are from the same area, and I also know a number of people in PR from the Birmingham or Black Country way, I don’t think of them, what I think of myself. I guess it’s that age-old cringeworthy feeling of hearing yourself on video or tape, I don’t know many people who like the sound of their own voice.
However, for me, it’s been a consistent problem throughout my career and remains to be a huge Achilles heel of mine. Sometimes I feel unstoppable, other times I let things as trivial as my accent hold me back. I’m working on it, and part of that comes today with writing this blog post. If I write it in words, maybe I’ll listen to myself a bit more, so here are a few things I need to remember.
#1 – My Accent Does Not = Intelligence
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of stigma around the Birmingham/Black Country accent and the intelligence of those with it, which is of course abhorrently untrue. All the same, this ongoing classification has left me so self conscious of my accent that I get outwardly embarrassed and anxious that people aren’t taking what I say seriously. As I said above, deep down I know this is ridiculous. My accent does not make me more or less intelligent. I don’t think this about others, so I need to stop thinking it of myself.
#2 – I Do Not Need To Change My Accent
For a long time I tried to tone down my accent. Needless to say it didn’t work. I think even if I lived away from home forever, I’d still have that Black Country twang. It doesn’t want to leave, and deep down – I don’t think I want it to either! I’ve tried to tweak the way I speak, and it simply doesn’t work. I know I need to embrace my voice, as opposed to shying away from it. I’m working on it.
#3 – My Voice Does Not Make Me Any Worse Or Better At My Job
A lot of my job now involves liaising with clients, being involved in pitches and so on. Safe to say I spend a lot of time presenting in-person, over Zoom and on the phone. This has come with its own challenges, and many of those revert back to the way I sound. Every day my confidence gets better and better, thanks in no small part to the amazing people I have around me. Something I’m continuously trying to remind myself, is that my accent does not make me any worse at my job. Though I do worry that I come across unintelligent, I know what I’m talking about and oftentimes our results speak for themselves. This is something that I’m learning every day and I hope one day, that I’ll be fully over.
#4 – I Should Stop Turning Down Opportunities
I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve turned down podcast, webinar and even in-person speaking opportunities on account of being conscious of the way I sound. Earlier this year, I took a massive step and delivered a lecture (albeit, virtually – cheers Covid) to the lovely PR students of LJMU. It was a huge leap out of my comfort zone, but in the end I loved it. This is something I want to do more of, in the future. It’s time for me to stop shying away from amazing opportunities, because I don’t sound the way I’d like to. As I write it, it sounds pathetic. This is what I really ought to remember next time I get offered up a fantastic experience like the ones I’ve turned down in the past.
#5 – Not Every PR Person Is The Same
Finally, something I have to keep telling myself is that not every PR person is the same. There is an ongoing stereotype (one we in the industry constantly work to eradicate) that people who work in public relations are shouty, drinky, party girls from London. Something that really couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m an advocate for the introverts, and one of my most popular blog posts spoke about how you don’t need to be Samantha Jones to work in PR. I’ve met many fantastic people working in this industry all over the UK, from up north in Scotland to down south in London. The simple fact of this country is that nobody sounds the same. We all have different accents and dialects and that’s what makes us individually beautiful.
Someone tell me to take that heart off my sleeve! 💌 I can’t stop sharing at the moment, but to be completely honest i feel all the better for it. Hopefully the more I write about my issues and hang ups, the easier it will be to overcome them. Because the truth is, I love my home, and my consciousness around the way I talk is super trivial. I don’t think these things about other people from my area, only about myself. Why is that? Probably because it’s something I am totally overthinking.
I know one day I’ll get there, I’m taking baby steps every day. I’m proud of where I come from, and I couldn’t chose a better place to call home.
Lots of love,
Your fave Black Country PR bab xx