Find Your Voice
Ideas on How to Speak Up When You're Afraid
At around age 55 I found my voice. Before that my voice was that of my husband, or my boss, and sometimes my adult children. I thought it would be best not to speak up with an opinion, and furthermore, I greatly doubted my opinion was worth speaking up. Raised in a family where I was the 5th of 6 children, I watched more than spoke. I felt the older brothers and sisters were smarter, more popular, and just cooler on every level. When it came to me, I thought I was just OK. Just OK or average in my homework, my ideas, and just ok in my opinions. We are all closer now (and dare I say, equally cool) than those days when we were busy finding ourselves and establishing our paths.
FEAR TO SPEAK UP
As a young woman, I went to Bible School. I knew I had a message to bring and wanted to learn how to do that. I enrolled in "Teaching," of all things, where I had to stand before an audience and give a lesson. Fear absolutely gripped me every time I stood in front of my classmates. How could I speak to an experienced group of knowledgeable people? Each time, I struggled to be sure that my lessons were factual and backed up, just in case my voice was wrong, and I was challenged by someone. This was my first step to begin to overcome my fear of failure and of being just OK. I learned that my voice could positively inspire and change lives of the listeners.
As my life progressed, I quit the ministry and began to work in a whole new challenging setting, the corporate world. At meetings, I was the quiet one. I again believed everyone in the room was smarter, more accomplished and would think my ideas were too simple or elementary.
THINGS BEGAN TO CHANGE
I had a couple of supervisors who saw potential in me and put me in many positions where I was the lead. It was agony, but eventually I learned that my suggestions and my insight were appreciated, respected, and yes, sometimes acted upon. It took courage to speak up, but in speaking up I found I had a voice and could express it. This was not without fear though! It took countless times of practice to have the fear of speaking up subside.
MY VOICE, MY LIFE
Today, I hear my voice and can speak it clearly in matters of my life. I've evolved to do things that in looking back, seem remarkable. This has affected five real estate deals, beginning my own business, dealing with financial issues, all the while trusting my instincts and inner voice.
I've practiced expressing opinions in a way that doesn't offend, yet perhaps doesn't agree with the common opinion at the time. This will happen to you as you tune in and gain courage. The more you do something you are timid about or afraid of, the better you get at it. Finding your voice in this context involves leaving out volatile words, anger, or put downs to others. I call that using "fighting words." In the context of finding your voice in this article, we are not out to cause a fight or ignite a debate. We are just interjecting our own opinion, without need for others to agree or change their point of view.
A wise person told me once, "if you don't say anything, you are agreeing." Think that through a minute. Is that true? If you are in a discussion with someone who is expressing a totally different opinion than yours and the conversation ends without expressing yourself, do they believe you agree with them?
I'm wondering if you been squashed out of expressing yourself. Do you feel that other's opinions are more important, more researched, and intelligent, or just that their ideas count more than yours? If you answer yes to those questions, ask yourself, is that true?
STEPS TO BEGIN FINDING YOUR VOICE
1. Practice in the privacy of your own home. Listen to podcasts or the news, and when you have a difference of opinion, start talking out loud as if the speaker can hear you. You might feel silly, but then again, you will be strengthening your own personal power. Words will come more easily in future moments, as you become more comfortable speaking them in private.
2. Write responses in a journal. No one will see these or read these. Imagine yourself in future situations you will likely encounter and write what you might say. Do this especially if it's a conversation that embraces the opposite of your own opinion.
3. When with your closest and most trusted friend, if you have an opinion that differs from them, allow them to speak it out, then try saying, "I respect you think that way, but here's my thinking," then venture in to express your difference of opinion. "Thanks for sharing, but I feel a bit differently." "I understand what you're saying." "Thanks for sharing your opinion. Just so you know, what you expressed is not my opinion, I believe..." They may be surprised to hear you speak up!
4. Right now, think of a person who shared an idea that changed you. You began to take a different path or think more openly about something or someone because they took the courage to share. How important was that to you? Remember this quote: The only way to find your voice is to use it.
YOUR WORDS CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
As you practice this, you will find your way of expressing your own personal truth. Won't you be surprised to find that sometimes, the whole conversation turns around to consider your opinion? Or even if that does not happen in the moment, please remember you will never know how your words may later be considered and thought over, or how it inspired someone. "When you find the courage to use your voice, it has the power to positively inspire and change the lives of others. It's one of the special gifts you have to offer the world and is something to be cherished and championed, never hidden. Remember this quote, “The only way to find your voice is to use it.”
Verbalizing your own voice, gives yourself appreciation and worth. You may affect change for the better, all because you practiced your voice and spoke up.