A couple of months ago I read an article which was a short essay written by a lady who reflected on her journey to find her voice. She talked in detail about how she was in a long term relationship with her partner, a week away from being married, and left the relationship because she finally realized her worth and found her voice. She spent years making herself wrong for having feelings and hiding them from her partner because when she shared them he made her wrong. She made herself small and over time, lost who she was because she became what she needed to be to survive...not thrive. Her identity became one of walking on egg shells to keep the peace and pretend to be happy despite dying a little each day on the inside. She recounted several examples of how she did this. She did just enough to be present in a given moment, while dimming her light so she didn’t shine too bright.
Many of us, women in particular, hold back and keep ourselves small to appease others but at what expense? We lose ourselves in who we think we should be, the roles we’ve taken on that are defined by others. We become the person defined by those around us, but lose or never really know who we are at our core. Without the judgements, projections, masks, and other things that we take on to define our identity but isn’t really us at all. We live playing by all of the rules, coloring inside all of the lines, fearful of what would happen should we decide to stray from this box. But what would happen if you decided to think outside of the box a little? Or find a rule that didn’t really sit well with you...and go against it because you were taking an action that was more true to yourself. What if you set a boundary with a person or a situation or released an expectation? What would life be like then?
Being able to speak up and express what you need and want in life to live isn’t something we should make ourselves wrong for. It is something we should consider “normal” and healthy. Seeing that we are worth the love we want, that our opinion is valuable, and that we add value to everyone’s lives we touch every single day. And that we can do that with the simple power of our word. The power that comes from finding your voice and speaking up when something is wrong in your eyes. What if another person in that same situation also thinks it’s wrong and is afraid to express just that? Or what if it isn’t about right or wrong, but simply speaking your truth? Why wouldn’t that be worth sharing or expressing to those around you? I posit this is a matter of confidence, of will, of fear, of self love.
Asking questions and being afraid of perception if one asks questions is something I’ve grappled with my entire life. I had this most of my professional career. I didn’t ask a lot of questions and it was perceived that I wasn’t present in conversations or want to participate. Really it was me being afraid of being seen as not knowing what was going on or being judged for giving the wrong answer. I really wanted to participate but didn’t want to look bad by asking a “stupid” question. I also had an issue thinking I was in certain situations because it was to take notes, not to be an active participant in the meeting or situation. I was being asked to show up and didn’t even know and couldn’t step up in this way because I couldn’t see myself as this. I didn’t have my voice. It’s funny because writing this I look back on a situation with work where the client was upset with me for asking so many questions because I wasn’t afraid of how it would be perceived. How could such a change happen?
I was always a really good student, so I either had the answer or was able to figure it out fairly quickly. This was actually something I prided myself on, both personally and professionally. What I didn’t realize, though, was I created an identity for myself and if I ever decided to change or that this identity no longer suited me, there could be a consequence. I also have been known as the person who has the answers or has an easy way to find answers, so if you’re that person asking questions really doesn’t fit. But why take that and all of that pressure for yourself? Sometimes it is given and not asked for, but regardless, it can be changed if you want it to.
In Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly, there is a point where she talks about showing up in your own life. About being willing to dare greatly and bet on yourself. To live your life on the court, not as a bystander sitting in the stands watching from afar. When I read this book a few years ago that part struck me to my core. I hadn’t found my voice yet. I had to ask if I was living in the bleachers or if I was on the court. I was in the bleachers! Starting to find my voice was a big factor to getting off the bleachers and getting onto the court of life. This is exactly what the woman in the article did. She decided she was done living for her ex and wanted to live for herself. She wanted to do the things that lit her up and not dimmed her light. She realized she wanted to surround herself with people who supported and uplifted her and encouraged her to be the best version of herself. She found her voice and didn’t turn back.
Have you found your voice?