Accessing the power of your voice
It can be tremendously difficult for some of us to use, and even to find, our voice.
There are many possible reasons for this. Perhaps we have always been surrounded by loud people with strong opinions, and have always found it difficult to make ourselves heard. Perhaps we were discouraged during childhood from speaking up or 'rocking the boat'. Perhaps we have had events in our lives that have knocked our confidence, so we find it difficult to speak out. Perhaps we are naturally very introverted or quiet, and feel we have lots to offer but don’t know how to grow our voice.
It may take time, but I believe it is possible to find and develop your authentic voice and let it be heard.
Expectations in society
Regardless of whether we had a 'good' or 'bad' childhood experience, or whether we’ve experienced significant trauma in our lives, there are certain 'norms' or expectations in our society, families, workplaces, and even education that can stifle our voice.
Family systems may mean that we have been led to believe we must be quiet, or that we should always go along with other people. Perhaps it is understandable that in our workplaces we are discouraged from shouting whatever we want, whenever we feel like it, but sometimes this can go too far and organisational policy, hierarchy, and red tape can result in us feeling unable to speak. It may even be that certain groups or types of people, or those in certain job roles are, or seem to be, excluded from speaking up, even if it is about injustice, bullying, or harassment.
Factors such as gender, culture, and age can also have an impact on expectations regarding how vocal we are expected to be. For instance, women may find it difficult to have a voice in some families or workplaces, or some environments may respect certain age groups more than others.
When we are in these systems and environments, we may not even realise what is going on. These expectations have been in place for a very long time, and we may not realise that our voice is being stifled.
In some circumstances, it may even be that we experiencing gaslighting. Gaslighting, for anyone who isn’t aware, is when someone intentionally twists your perception of reality for their own gain. We might be told we are 'overreacting', that we are 'upset over nothing', or that we are 'confused' when we try and voice our view of the world. Particularly if this is an ongoing situation, it can leave us feeling powerless, lacking in confidence, and small. But unless we recognise what it is, it can be difficult to break the cycle.
Whilst gaslighting is an intentional attempt to twist your reality, the person responsible may not realise the full implications of what they are doing. If you think this is happening to you and you don’t think the person is fully aware of the consequences of their actions, I hope you can try and find your voice and speak to them about it. It could be a pivotal moment for them as well as you.
Some people who gaslight are fully aware of the consequences of their actions. If this is the case, particularly if this person believes they have some sort of power over you, it can be much more difficult to raise the issue. If you don’t feel able to raise it, I hope you are able to gain support from a senior member of staff, citizen’s advice bureau, a union, a counsellor, or whoever else might be appropriate.
Not only are we more than entitled to voice our emotions, opinions, needs, and thoughts, but it also seems that the world right now needs the authentic voices of those who don’t always speak out. If you really care and are passionate about certain things, perhaps you need to be heard.
This brings me to another aspect of this topic which is that, in some parts of society, workplaces, families, or even friendship groups, showing passion might be seen as uncouth, unbalanced, or uncool. This can dampen our passion and our ability to use our voice, but I hope you will not be deterred! This can be an indication that people can’t be bothered to listen to what we have to say, or that they are uncomfortable with their own inaction or apathy.
It is worth pointing out that there are helpful ways to voice our passion and opinions, and not so helpful ways. It is understandable for people to complain if we are aggressive rather than assertive with our opinions or passions. A good place to start with assertiveness is to use 'I feel…' statements. If you start a discussion with 'I feel angry when…', or 'I feel sad when…', you are owning your experience, and it would be unreasonable for anyone to complain about you voicing the way you feel or deny that you feel that way.
There are a number of things we can do if we either struggle with finding our voice or being heard. Counselling or coaching can help us find our voice and identity. Those who are struggling with these issues may also benefit from some writing therapy around values and beliefs which may help you to understand yourself and your message better. Simply reading, watching, and hearing more about the things you care about, so that you develop a greater sense of self, may also help to develop your voice. Or, perhaps you would benefit from learning more about assertiveness.
Are you in the right crowd?
If we try to be heard but it falls flat, perhaps it is time to ask ourselves if our job, friendship group, or partner is right for us. Or, perhaps it is just that we need to find a new arena in our lives where people are interested in the kind of things we want to talk about, such as a political party, committee, or meetup group.
If your intentions are good and you have genuine passions and new ideas about how to do things, the world needs to hear your voice. Furthermore, blocking that voice can cause us to feel numb and powerless. Finding and using your voice can be a difficult process, and there are people who will try and stop you, but it can be one of the most liberating and empowering things you do.
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