There comes a time in every person's life when they are faced with a startling, disconcerting reality—their own voice. If you're wondering why you hate the sound of your own voice, there's no reason to be alarmed or assume there's something wrong with you; everyone squirms when they hear what they really sound like. As one listens to their recorded voice played back to them, it's not at all uncommon to be confused and even disgusted: That isn't what I sound like, is it?
Arrested Development narrator voice: "It is."
The reasons why it's weird to hear yourself are both scientific and highly personal. There are processes happening on a biological level every time you speak. There are also personal and cultural perspectives on what voices "should" sound like, and this inevitably influences people's discomfort with their own voice. Upon hearing yourself speak, a sort of hypothetical perfect storm is created when what's physiologically happening within your own body to create your voice collides with your own perceptions and expectations of what you sound like. But don't worry—everyone experiences this phenomenon, and your voice is part of what makes you totally unique.
When you speak, you actually hear two different combined sounds in your head. One is the actual sound of your speaking voice. The other is the sound of the vibrations from your vocal cords resonating in your throat. But when you speak aloud, others only hear the actual sound, not all the inner sounds you also hear.
This explains the disparity between what you hear and what other people hear.
People are so convinced of what they sound like that they have a hard time recognizing their own voice. One study found that only 38% of people are able to immediately identify the sound of their own voice when it's played back to them. This eye-opening number illustrates the sizable gulf that separates what a person thinks they sound like and what they really sound like.
There is a high likelihood that you believe your voice to be much deeper than it actually is. This perception has to do with the acoustics inside your head, which lower the frequency of sound vibrations emitted when you speak. According to Science Alert's David Nield: "As a result, the voice we hear inside our heads is lower, richer, and more mellifluous because of these extra rumblings, and hearing it come from outside ourselves... makes it sound tinny and alien."
As with most behavior, how you learned to speak in childhood impacts your voice. As infants and toddlers, you watched others' mouths to see how sounds and words were created. This is almost a kind of mimicry, so from an early age, you learned to develop your voice based on how others sounded. As a result, the voice you think you have is actually a borrowed composite of voices you've heard all your life, which can explain some of the discomfort:
We learned to talk by looking at the mouths of other people, trying to understand the sounds that were coming out of their mouths, and then, attempting to replicate those sounds. We spend our whole lives hearing ourselves one way, only to have that completely thrown off when we hear ourselves recorded.