Voice Lessons for Today Blog » Insights from Atlanta therapist Mazi Robinson

Masthead header

What’s Your Theme Song? (plus an iTunes Gift Card Giveaway!)

I once read a quote that said, “Music’s the medicine of the mind”… well said.  Music plays such an interesting role in our lives.  When we hear music, it does something to our spirit.  It makes us want to move, to dance.  It fills us with energy.  It leads us to cry when we didn’t even know we were sad.  It makes us happy when we’d rather stay under the covers.  Music can have an amazing impact on our emotional being.

But what I find so fascinating about music’s role in our mind and our lives, is how it bookmarks our story.  When I hear certain music, I immediately am transported back in time.  For instance, whenever I hear a marching band, my memory is instantly filled with the smell of fresh cut grass, the chill of a Fall night, all the sights and sounds of Tara Stadium, and I am instantly 16 again.  Or whenever I hear “Be Thou My Vision” my mind travels back to my wedding day and standing in the back of the church listening to my dear friend, Noelle, sing those beautiful words as tears streamed down my face.

It is always a fascinating trip down memory lane to scroll through my mental music library and recall the times and periods that I listened to certain songs or types of music.  I can listen to a song on repeat with the best of them.  What I’ve realized over the years, though, is that the songs that really draw my attention do so for a reason, and those particular songs become a sort of theme song for that particular season of life.   Now when I reflect back over my life, I have a sort of soundtrack that accompanies the chapters of my story.

I once listened to Lara Fabian’s “I Will Love Again” over and over after a really bad breakup.  No, I’m not kidding.  Yes, the song is as cheesy as the title sounds.  It is a club mix type song about a girl who will love again though [her] heart is breaking… stronger than before.   Let’s be honest, sometimes theme songs are neither terribly profound nor musical masterpieces.

As a very young 23 year old teaching students who were only a handful of years younger, I listened to U2’s “It’s a Beautiful Day” and “Elevation” every day on the way to work.  You can’t help but feel like you can conquer a class of 16 year olds after listening to those two songs!

And when I was preparing to leave that teaching job I dearly loved for my leap of faith into grad school and the counseling profession, I listened to Joe Cocker’s “Have a Little Faith in Me.”   I imagined this was God’s message to me in those final months at Marist… when the road gets dark and you can no longer see, let my love throw a spark and have a little faith in me.

Years later, when I struggled with infertility and eventually went through IVF, my theme song was NewSong’s “Rescue.”  I can still remember sitting in the waiting room before my egg retrieval, and then 10 months later in the delivery room, with my earphones in trying to rest in the message that I was not alone and there was power and strength beyond my own available to me.

My latest theme song has been Sara Bareilles’ “Brave.”  I cannot get enough of this song.  It has been on repeat both in my mind and on my computer for the past several months.  It has been a cheerful companion as I have been facing little and big fears.  I love the words and sentiment of the song as it challenges me to see how big my Brave is.

Music encourages us, challenges us, and helps us tap into emotions we did not know were there.  We are drawn to certain songs during certain seasons of life for a reason, and those words and melodies serve as sources of inspiration and support when we feel we are paddling up stream.

Do you have theme songs in your life?  Do you have musical bookmarks that score your story?  What is your current theme song?  Having a theme song that you can listen to and find comfort and inspiration in helps you move through these unique seasons of your life.  Much like a mantra, a song is a wonderful way to center your mind and heart.  Music truly can be medicine to the soul.

I would love to hear the songs from which you draw your strength and encouragement.  In honor of our theme song topic and the power of music over our minds and hearts, I thought this would be a good opportunity for another giveaway! I am going to give away $10 iTunes gift cards to three lucky winners!  Just leave a comment below or send me a message to enter the drawing, and I will draw at the end of the week.  Look forward to hearing from you!!

Brooke - My absolute favorite “go to” song that gives my strength is “Our God Saves”, by Paul Baloche.

Jenni - The song that got me through a very hard time this fall was Mandisa’s Overcomer. Right this second my theme song is Aaron Shust’s God of Brilliant Lights. Not only does it allow me to rest in His plan and His love for me, but T loves it. I love to hear him belt it out from the back seat and I catch him singing it at home when it isn’t on the radio. If T can internalize this message at such a young age, I can’t ask for anything more.

Shelly - At my last corporate job I listened to “Call on Jesus” by Nicole C. Mullen every morning on the way to work. “I can mount on wings like eagles and soar!!”

Stephanie - I love the song “cornerstone” by Hillsong. I always start to hum it whenever I feel overwhelmed or defeated.

wonderful post Mazi.

Betsy - In the midst of deciding to end my marriage over 9 years ago, Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” played repeatedly (and tears and/or smiles poked through each time ). When I was given an opportunity to relocate and protect my child, Keith Urban’s “Better Life” resonated with our hearts and magically played on the radio at the perfect times (just when I felt unsure of our huge move). There are many, many more. Thanks, Mazi, for causing me to pause to contemplate this question!

Julianna - My theme song has been “Fix You” by Coldplay for a number of years. While a little cliche, there is something about this song for me. The lyrics hit home with me and the music is soothing. Whenever I’m stressed out or need a little reminder of God’s guiding light, I find comfort in this song.

Jeff Ernst - My favorite song that has always encouraged me and inspired me is Chicago’s “Felling Stronger Everyday” 🙂


Thoughts for Thursday- Are You Brave Enough? - Voice Lessons for Today Blog - […] honor of  my earlier post, What’s Your Theme Song, I thought our Thoughts for Thursday post should be a song rather than a quote.   Yesterday a […]

Thoughts for Thursday- Becoming Real



REAL is never ugly.

Ah the wisdom of the Skin Horse and the precious, inquisitive nature of the Velveteen Rabbit… I doubt there is a more poignant exchange in all of literature.  Many of us grew up with the beautiful story of the Velveteen Rabbit and his journey of becoming real through the power of love.  It is a story written for children, but I don’t think we grasp the true meaning and depth of the story until adulthood.

The famous conversation between the Skin Horse and Velveteen Rabbit begins as the Rabbit is struggling to feel settled in his new home in the nursery.  The Rabbit worries he isn’t as expensive or impressive as the other toys with their mechanical parts.  He feels he doesn’t quite measure up and feels insecure and less than.  One day the Rabbit decides to ask the wisest of all the toys in the nursery, the Skin Horse, what it means to be REAL.

The Skin Horse gives the simplest, yet most complex of answers.

“Real isn’t how you are made… it’s a thing that happens to you.  When a child loves you for a long, long time… then you become REAL.”

The Skin Horse goes onto say that becoming REAL does not happen overnight.  It is a process.  Becoming REAL isn’t for the faint of heart.  It isn’t meant for those who prefer to be perfect, who prefer a safe life on the shelf.  Becoming REAL happens to those who do not mind the ups and downs life and the uncertainty of love.  REAL happens to those who accept that being hurt may be painful, but it is better than being numb.

Yes, life might leave you tattered and bruised.  Yes, you might have scars that remind you of missteps and fallen dreams.  But, as the Skin Horse so wisely states, once you are REAL you do not care that you are not perfect.  Perfection and having it all together are no longer the goal.  You don’t mind if people see your mistakes and heartaches.  You don’t mind if people see your tears and fears.  Why?  Because you know you are REAL and “once you are REAL you can’t be ugly.”

You can stay on the shelf and avoid any decision in life that may leave stretch marks.  You can keep love and people at arms length for fear of being hurt.  Or you can practice vulnerability.  You can show up and be seen in your life.  Vulnerability opens the doorway to giving and receiving love.  When you believe you are loved and lovable, you don’t mind if you’re “loose in the joints and very shabby” because you know you are REAL … you know you are enough.

REAL is never ugly.  REAL is beautiful and approachable.  REAL is courageous and strong.  REAL is contagious and inspiring.   REAL is never ugly.

How has life and love helped you become REAL?  How has becoming REAL freed you from the yoke of perfection? 


Hannah Mirmiran, LCSW - This is a such a great post. I shared this on my page, thank you for writing!

Barbara Exley - Mazi dear – thank you for this post. Being real means by opening my heart to loving others I will suffer but the joy and privilege of standing and loving alongside others in their struggles and victories/pain and relief are worth the heartache, sleepless nights, the empathy for those who suffer injustices of all kinds in all places…to be real means I prayed for God’s heart for His world and He answered that bold, foolish, faithful prayer and He equips me to love and accept love from others. Bless you dear and wise one!

Bobbie - Enjoy

You Want Me to Share What?!?: Lessons In Vulnerability

I always find it interesting when I discover reoccurring themes in my conversations with individuals.  Although we think we are the only ones, we all wrestle with very similar concerns.  At the top of that list is our struggle with knowing how to open up and share our thoughts and feelings with others instead of stuffing them and keeping them inside.  For many, we don’t know how to open up.  We do not know what to share or where to start, and we are afraid to share because we don’t know how it will be received.  As a result, we keep our story to ourselves, and we use smiles as Band-Aids to cover our aching hearts.

We stuff so many of our thoughts and feelings that eventually we end up like a balloon filled with too much air and ready to pop.  We let air out of our balloon by sharing our story, and this means leaping into vulnerability.   This means we have to open ourselves and let ourselves be truly seen.

Sometimes when I encourage people to be vulnerable and share with someone what is going on with them, they usually give me that look that says, “You want me to do what?  You must be crazy!  I’m not telling someone that!”  Beginning to practice vulnerability feels a little unnerving at first, especially if you have spent most of your life guarded behind a series of impenetrable walls.

As I have shared before, I am a huge fan of Brené Brown’s research and writing on shame and vulnerability.  She defines vulnerability as risk and emotional exposure.  Vulnerability is that heart racing moment when you do or say something that pushes you outside of your normal pattern and routine.  Vulnerability is scary because it does feel like a risk to put yourself out there and deal with the uncertainty that accompanies letting your guard down.  Being vulnerable does not mean we are weak, weepy, needy, or clingy.  Being vulnerable means we are strong and courageous because it takes courage to show our brokenness and talk about our mistakes.

This emotional risk naturally begs the question- who can we open up to?  With whom do we take the leap of vulnerability?  Brown says that you share with the people who have “earned the right to hear.”  We share with those who have earned the right to truly see us and know our story.  So what does that mean in practical terms?  We share with those who give us empathy and compassion, who listen without judgment and without trying to offer a solution or a “look on the bright side” reframe.  We tell our story to those who demonstrate discernment, wisdom, and the ability to keep our confidence.  We open ourselves up to those who show up not only for us, but also to us.

So am I encouraging you to lay it all out there for every Susie, Sally, and Sandy to see?  Heavens no!  There is a difference between being vulnerable and oversharing.  Oversharing is not vulnerability.  Oversharing actually inhibits true relationship building and ends up being a barrier to connection.  People overshare for a variety of reasons.  The trick is becoming aware of when and why we are oversharing.

  1. Sometimes we overshare as a way of testing others to see if they can “handle” us or if we are going to be too much for them.
  2. Other times we overshare because we are experiencing something so painful that we just have to purge it from our minds.  We start sharing without taking into consideration if the person is a safe, close friend who will respond with empathy and compassion.
  3. Lastly, we may overshare as a way of trying to create an immediate, albeit false, bond with someone.  We have such a strong desire to create some sort of attachment that we try to jumpstart connection without laying the necessary groundwork to a true relationship.


When we begin practicing vulnerability and sharing our story, we want to do so in a relationship that has a strong enough foundation to bear the weight of the information that is shared.  Our level of vulnerability matches the level of closeness in the friendship.  As you grow closer, you go deeper in vulnerability, and as you go deeper in vulnerability, you grow closer.  Vulnerability creates intimacy.

If you are nervous about beginning to practice vulnerability, remind yourself it is baby step process.  Start in the shallow end and work your way into the deep waters.  Remember, we share with those who have earned the right to hear.  This isn’t a race.  There is not a “Best at Vulnerability in Friendship” prize waiting for you at the finish line.  There are people out there who want to know you as much as you would like to be truly known.  Vulnerability is truly the gateway to connection.

What is an act of vulnerability you could take in one of your relationships today?  What is something you could try, create, or share with someone? 


Brown, Brené, Ph.D., LMSW. (2012). Daring Greatly:  How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead. New York:  Gotham Books.

Thoughts for Thursday- That IS Me!

Steven Covey quote


In this week’s earlier post about breaking our comparison habit on Facebook and Pinterest, we discussed the power of the statement that is not me.  We walk around in our little worlds, and too often that thought is triggered because we think someone else is more together, more interesting, or more accomplished.  But sometimes saying that is not me allows us to uncover our true priorities, passions, and calling.  It opens the door to discovering what is truly important and what we were created to do with our lives.

It takes courage to look at your life and say these are the things I am good at, passionate about, or I want to try and work on.  If you want to quickly make a conversation uncomfortable just ask someone what she is good at.  We seem so hesitant to boldly claim are innate talents and gifts, and we mistake denial and self-deprecation for humility.  Just as denying your natural abilities  is not humility, choosing your priorities over someone else’s is not selfish.   We have to learn to say “no” to some things so we can say “yes” to our gifts and passions.

When we let ourselves do what we are good at and what we love, we are living a priority focused life and we will be much less inclined to feel we need to be or live differently.   When we know what makes us come alive, there will be a bigger “yes” burning inside us like a lighthouse guiding and directing our path.

Is your priority in life trying to be different than you are and always looking to others trying to be like them?  Or is your priority naming and claiming your gifts, talents, and passions so you can live out your unique purpose?

karenbethc - I always enjoy your blog writings … you put so much thought and wisdom into them… thank you 🙂

The Lime Tree That Set Me Free

Imagine a world where you didn’t know what the person you sat next to in Algebra twenty-five years ago had for dinner?  That was life before Facebook.  Imagine a world where you didn’t know there were so many different ways to braid your hair.  That was life before Pinterest.  Imagine actually choosing to see 186 pictures of a friend’s kid playing on the beach and then wondering if your kid needs more beach toys.  That is the power of social media.  These things have become such mainstays in our lives it is almost hard to imagine life BFB  (Before Facebook).

A lot has been written in recent years about the power of social media and its impact on how we view and portray ourselves.    Perhaps you don’t like to admit it, but you’ve probably dipped your toe into the vat of social-media-comparing at least once or twice.  You are tired after a long day so you decide to kick back and catch up on some Facebook.  Scroll, scroll.  Click, click.  Before you know it you are feeling mildly irritated and a little lonely and you don’t even know why.  So you decide to click on over to Pinterest.  Scroll, scroll.  Pin, pin.  And before you know it you are feeling discontent and thinking you need to remodel your entire house, in particular your kitchen, because you must have those subway tiles!  (Ah subway tiles… the holy grail of kitchen décor)

It does not take researchers in Sweden or California to prove what many of us already know deep down inside:  we love our Facebook and Pinterest and Instagram, but we can let those things get away from us. Before we know it, we are feeling down, dissatisfied, and disconnected.   Research shows that after viewing Facebook, women are more likely to struggle with comparing their lives to others and report feeling less happy and less content with their lives.  Oh Facebook, you seductive drug!  You make us feel so good and so bad at the same time!

As much as I love Facebook, I have had an altogether different relationship with Pinterest, but one Pin in particular provided me with a huge epiphany about myself.  When I first discovered Pinterest, it made me mad.  It literally made me mad.  So mad, in fact, that my husband told me to either get off the website or stop talking about it.  First of all, you have to be “invited” to join Pinterest.  Seriously?  Could there be anything that more triggers the 12-year-old girl just wanting to belong lurking in all of us?  Once I got invited to sit at the cool kids’ table, I saw all these things people were pinning… pictures of beautiful living rooms, kids birthday parties with these elaborate themes and all these matching party goods, clothes and jewelry that looked way more chic than anything I had, and kid craft projects that made Martha Stewart look like an amateur.

I was totally befuddled and dumbfounded.  Were people just pinning this stuff wanting people to think they were eating, wearing, decorating, and entertaining in these ways?  OR were people really making and wearing all this stuff?  I couldn’t figure out which of these possibilities I found more frustrating.  How did they know where to find all these super adorable and professional looking party supplies?  How is someone so creative that she can look at a rubber doormat and think, “I can paint this white and hang it on my wall and I’ve got wall art”?   Do people really spend the time I imagine it would take to make Santa heads out of strawberries?


(Photo by LeAnn Bakes)

I was completely lost.  I had stumbled into a cyber world that triggered every insecurity about my home, culinary skills, fashion, and hair.  Scroll, scroll.  Pin, pin.  Compare, compare.  And with each comparison my life seemed more and more drab.

Then one evening I stumbled across this Pin with the caption “Best Housewarming Gift Ever” and I was set free.


Yep, folks, your eyes are not deceiving you.  That is a lime tree with a perfectly tied bow and a six-pack of Coronas encircling it like a wreath.  Best Housewarming Gift Ever.  I can’t even seem to bring friends dinner when they have babies, and now someone out there is saying I need to bring creative housewarming gifts?  Deep in the throws of my comparison-induced-self-pity, I thought about how I would never be creative or crafty enough to come up with this idea.  I don’t even know where you buy lime trees, not to mention I cannot tie a bow to save my life.  Then full of discouragement I thought, “That is just not me.”

And then I thought it again… That is not me.  (Discouragement subsiding.) That is not me. (Epiphany blooming.)

That is not me!  (Confetti and streamers falling from the ceiling!)

That is not me and it probably never will be because… I don’t even need a reason!  That is just not how my mind and creativity work, and that is okay!  But thank goodness there are people out there that can look at a lime tree and think “Housewarming Gift” or look at a doormat and think “wall art.”  Thank goodness for those creative types!  But that is not me!  It was an enormous epiphany to have that recognition and not feel guilt or a sense of criticism along with it.

Sometimes we look at other people’s skills or talents and think that is not me and we feel jealous or discouraged.  Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and he was absolutely right.  It is the thief of joy and the fertilizer of bitterness, jealousy, and resentment.  Nothing good ever comes from comparing.  When we step into the comparison ring we leave either pummeled by discouragement and defeat or pumped full of pride.  Neither of those colors look good on anyone.

We defeat our comparison addiction by accepting who we are, who we are not, and not feeling as though we need to explain or clarify.  Sometimes we think that is not me and we feel less than and that we are not measuring up to some evasive standard.  But what if, instead, that statement was heard as permission to step away from the yoke of comparison and step towards self-acceptance and awareness of the qualities and talents that you do have.  Trying to live someone else’s life takes time and energy away from living your life well.  If you spend your time trying to make yourself into something you are not, then you will be unable to discover and cultivate your innate attributes and gifts.

Yes, social media can provide all sorts of opportunities to play the comparison game, and sometimes it can be beneficial to step back and take a break.  But sometimes, through all the scrolling and clicking, you stumble upon an epiphany that provides a key to freedom and acceptance.  That is not me- and that is okay!

How can you reframe the statement “That is not me” from a defeatist statement to a statement of permission, acceptance, and freedom?  What are the qualities, skills, and talents that are you?  What if you gave yourself permission to boldly claim all those attributes and let go of the standards and expectations that leave you feeling less than?

P.S.  In case you are wondering, I did make my peace with Pinterest.  I now use it as an online recipe box, a way to keep track of nail polish colors that I will inevitably never try because I can’t remember the name once I get to the nail salon, and as a place to collect pictures of kitchens with subway tiles… oh the subway tiles!

whitney - love this post. i don’t DIY and that’s all there is to it. and that’s AOK. (:

Colleen - Loved this post, Mazi. Thanks! Shared on my FB page. So enjoy your blog!

Thoughts for Thursday- That IS Me! - Voice Lessons for Today Blog - […] this week’s earlier post about breaking our comparison habit on Facebook and Pinterest, we discussed the power of the statement that is not me.  We walk around in our little worlds, and […]

Leanne - Hello! I’m Leanne, and those are my strawberry santas. Can you please credit my photo? http://www.leannebakes.com/2012/11/santa-strawberries.html