Posted by: silverliningsblog | June 28, 2020

Using your voice

We’re in a challenging period on our planet, where it’s more important than ever to learn how to use our voices effectively.

If you’ve ever been subject to racism, prejudice, bullying or abuse (especially at a young age), you may have learned to “bite your tongue,” “turn the other cheek” or “not ruffle feathers.” And if your parents were afraid to speak up too, you were even more likely to have been conditioned to keep quiet.

The problem with not saying anything when others are hurting us with their words and actions is that nothing changes. We teach people how to treat us, so by saying nothing, it’s as if we’re condoning what an aggressive person is doing.

It’s time to collectively break the silence…and break the cycle.

Why you’re afraid

Feeling afraid to speak is a trauma response…a fear of being harmed if we say anything. It’s a result of having been silenced by others, sometimes violently. For people of colour and other marginalized people, that fear is magnified from being afraid that the majority (an entire mob) will turn against them.

If you’re afraid to speak your truth, set a boundary, tell someone to stop mistreating you (or others), share your experience, or ask for change, it’s quite likely this fear was triggered long ago, likely in childhood.

You may have grown up in a home where using your voice was actively discouraged. In my home, when I’d try to ask questions or share my thoughts, my mother would often slap me across the face, telling me to “stop talking back.” I was simply trying to understand her decision-making process, but she took it as a threat to being in charge, and silenced me.

I didn’t realize then how great the impact of her actions would be on me. It has taken me many years to find my voice again, to dare to share my thoughts, feelings and needs with others, especially publicly. I sometimes still struggle with it, to be honest.

What was your experience growing up? Did you face neglect, abuse, violence, mental illness or addictions in your home? If so, you were likely not allowed to have healthy boundaries, to say what was ok and not ok with you, to ask for what you needed and have someone respond appropriately (with care and concern).

Did you hear any of these statements growing up?

  • Children should be seen, not heard.
  • Keep your voice down.
  • You’re too loud.
  • Bite your tongue.
  • Be quiet.
  • Shut up.
  • No one wants to hear what you have to say.
  • Your opinion doesn’t matter.
  • Don’t rock the boat.
  • Don’t ruffle feathers.
  • Don’t poke the bear.
  • Good girls don’t get mad.

If so, these statements were teaching you to be quiet, to not use your voice…even when you needed to defend yourself. Even when something needed to be said.

And if you were bullied at school, or unfairly targeted by a group of people for something you couldn’t change (like your skin colour, sexual orientation, or size), you again likely learned to say nothing, because as pack animals, it is a survival mechanism to avoid being excluded.

As a result, there may be many instances in your life when you wanted to say something…to protect yourself, to protect others, to speak up about something that wasn’t right, or even to simply say how you felt or what you wanted. But instead you shut down and said nothing…like you were conditioned to.

Moving through your fear

Learning to use your voice can trigger an intense fear, especially if you were punished for speaking up as a child or bullied/intimidated by a group of people.

It’s important to learn to move through your fear, and also to be compassionate with yourself as you’re learning this new skill.

Some powerful ways you can use your voice include:

  • Sharing an opinion or idea (what you think about something).
  • Asking for clarification (e.g. when you don’t understand someone’s point of view).
  • Sharing how you feel (e.g. when something is upsetting you).
  • Asking for what you need or want.
  • Telling someone when what they’re doing makes you feel uncomfortable.
  • Asking someone to stop what they’re doing (or to do it differently).
  • Saying no.
  • Taking a stand for someone else.

3 steps to overcome fear

Knowing that it can be scary to speak up when you’re used to remaining silent, here are three tips that can help you build your confidence:

  1. Make notes. Begin by making notes about what you want to say. Check out 3 steps to express yourself without conflict for ideas on how to present your thoughts in a way that is likely to be heard and understood.
  2. Practice. Once you know what you want to say, practice in front of a mirror, or with someone you trust (someone you know will be supportive). Saying the words out will help you to get the jitters out ahead of time (and refine your message).
  3. Visualize the outcome you want. Visualize having the conversation and feeling confident as you use your voice. Imagine the outcome you want to achieve (in other words, set an intention for what you want to have happen, and visualize it going well).

By practicing what you want to say and visualizing the outcome you want, it will be easier to deliver your message calmly and confidently when the time comes.

Say what you need to say

There will always be fear when you first start using your voice, especially if you’ve been conditioned not to. The way through fear is one step at a time. Every time you say something you would have repressed before, you’ll gain more confidence in yourself and your voice will become stronger.

Use your voice. Say what you need to say. The world needs to hear what you want to share…and more importantly, no matter what the response, your spirit needs you to say it.

Good luck – I believe in you!

Resources

For more information on using your voice:

If you are a single woman looking for a tribe of other supportive women, I invite you to join our global community for Empowered Single Women.

Share your thoughts

Have you been afraid to use your voice? What is the first step you will take to move through your fear?

About the author

Karen Strang Allen is a love and empowerment coach for single women. She is the author of Free to be me: Create a life you love from the inside out! and international bestselling co-author of Unwavering Strength Volume 2. Widowed at 22 and separated at 35, Karen’s mission is to help single women feel great about who they are and create a life they love so they attract their dream partner. Learn more about Karen and check out her free empowering resources and workshops at www.karenstrangallen.com.


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