At around age 55 I found my voice. Previously, 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 fifth of six 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.
Afraid to Speak Up
As a young woman, I went to Bible School. I knew I had a message and wanted to learn how to share it. I enrolled in teaching, of all things, where I had to stand before an audience and give a lesson. Fear 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 well researched, just in case 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 the lives of my 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 my potential and put me in many positions where I was to lead. It was agony, but eventually I learned that my suggestions and my insight were appreciated, respected, and yes, acted upon.
It took courage to speak up, but in speaking up, I found I actually had a voice and could express it. This was not without fear though! It took countless times of live 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, 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 voicing them.
I’ve practiced expressing opinions in a way that doesn’t offend, yet perhaps doesn’t agree with the common opinion either.
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 would call that using “fighting words” that will not cause a fight or start a debate.) You simply find your voice to share your opinion, without need for others to agree or change their point of view.
A wise person once told me, “If you don’t say anything, you are agreeing.” Think that through for a minute. Is it true?
If you are in discussion with someone who is expressing a totally different opinion than yours, and the conversation ends without you getting to share your thoughts, would the other party believe you agree with them?
Have you been squashed out of expressing your true self? Do you feel that others’ 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 really true?
Steps to Begin Finding Your Voice
Try these ideas to gain courage and strength in your voice:
Practice in the Privacy of Your Own Home
Listen to podcasts or the news, and when you have a different 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.
Write Responses in a Journal
Imagine yourself in 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 opinion.
For example, when with your closest and most trusted friend, if you have an opinion that differs from theirs, allow them to speak it out, then try saying one of these:
- “I respect you think that way, but here’s my thinking…”
- “Thanks for sharing, but I feel a bit differently.”
- “I understand what you’re saying. We each have a right to an opinion, and what you expressed is not my opinion, in fact, I believe…”
Then venture on to express your thoughts. They may be surprised to hear you speak up!
Accept Others’ Wisdom
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 because they took the chance to share. How important was that to you?
Practice Makes Perfect
Lastly, remember this quote:
The only way to find your voice is to use it.
—Austin Kleon; Picture quotes.com
Your Words Can Make a Difference
As you practice, 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, you never know who will feel inspired by your words.
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.
—Nicole O’Neill; higherlevelliving.org
You are a unique and wonderful individual with thoughts, feelings, and opinions that matter. When you begin to verbalize your own voice, you give yourself the appreciation of your worth. You may affect change for the better, all because you practiced your voice and believed in yourself.
Are you afraid to express your opinion? Who shared something with you in the past that totally changed your path? Do you need practice expressing yourself without anger or starting a heated discussion? Has speaking up ever backfired for you?