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Finding Your Voice

The Power of Words

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

When you spend your life carefully watching your words, it’s easy to feel like you’ve lost your voice. I believe in the power of words. I believe the “pen is mightier than the sword.” For those of you from the Christian faith, the power of words should be obvious: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1). Yeah, words have power. They have the power to create or destroy. Think of a time when you were young and a parent, teacher, friend, bully, said a simple little cruel thing to you, or had encouraging, kind words for you. Maybe their words discouraged you or empowered you to follow your dreams. We carry words with us for a long time.

So, when I talk about finding and honoring your voice, I’m talking about your words, your power. Women throughout all of time have been told to keep quiet. We’ve been told our voice, our opinions, our words don’t matter. People have been trying to silence us for far too long. And quite possibly, we’ve been told to be quiet precisely because our words matter too much. Maybe those telling us to keep quiet, to not get angry, to not rock the boat, tell us that because our words, our voice, our stories are so incredibly strong that those in power are afraid of our words. We’ve seen this to be the case. Just think of the #MeToo movement. It’s brought down some powerful men.

Getting Your Voice Back

As someone who deeply cares about other people, one of the hardest things is knowing the power of words and wanting to be really careful with my words. Combine that quality—a sincere desire to show love and kindness—with a millennium of being told to be quiet, and you end up with a kind woman who is afraid of some of her own thoughts. A woman who doesn’t want to contradict others. A woman who values the feelings of others over the value of her own experiences. You end up with a woman who has lost her voice.

Photo by MD Duran on Unsplash

How do you get that voice back? How do you become that bold, brave, confident woman

who knows how to use her words, who knows her voice? It can be a long, difficult process but here is one way to start: find a safe space to speak those words you’ve been holding inside. Ideally, you have a trusted partner, friend, therapist, who will let the words tumble out of you. Not everyone has that, but you don’t even have to tell anyone, just find a space by yourself and say them out loud.

For me, I have been graced with a great husband, great friends, great sisters, and great therapist. And they have provided safe spaces for many of my words, but not all. I have words—feelings and thoughts—that I still haven’t shared. And I haven’t known how to share them because these words scared me. There is some deep-seated fear and anger that I haven’t known how to express. So, I had this idea of just writing out all of my feelings in a stream-of-consciousness. I could get the words out and then if I wanted, I could burn them. Or not. And while this is a fantastic exercise, it’s still different than speaking my words.

It’s not only that words have power--the act of speaking those words has power. And if you have lost part of yourself because you have not spoken your truth, whether it’s out of fear of hurting someone, or being rejected, or fear that saying those things will make them so, you can’t really find yourself until those words are said.

First Step

Photo by Jukan Tateisi on Unsplash

One way to start is to find a time and space to say those words out loud, to yourself. No one has to be there. Maybe you go for a drive alone, or just sit out in the car by yourself. Maybe you are a musician or podcaster and have access to a noise-canceling room. Maybe you wait until your children are sleeping and you go in your closet. Maybe you take a long shower with the fan on. Do what you have to do to feel safe and to be alone and then start talking.

The thing is, saying these words out loud, whether they accurately portray how you are always feeling or just how you sometimes feel, is an amazing release. It’s the first step to validating your experiences, to validating yourself.

I think and write a lot. And I thought that thinking and writing down my feelings would be enough. But it hasn't been enough. Speaking the words is a critical step in finding and claiming yourself.

Careful vs. Silent

I actually talk a lot and enjoy talking. But I tend to be careful with my words, because I know that words do have power. So, there are some things I haven’t said. There are some parts of me that I’ve kept quiet. There are times I’ve wished I could just say whatever I’m thinking/feeling at the moment, to speak my mind unfiltered. But I like feeling like I’m in control of myself, so I filter. And I’m glad I do. It’s good, precisely because our words have immense power. We need to be responsible with our words. We don’t need to tell everyone every single thought or feeling that we have.

I don’t want to live in a world where everyone says everything that’s on their minds. I think good, careful discourse is important. All you have to do is look at the news or social media and see what happens when everyone and anyone says everything they want. It’s a cacophony of noise.

Photo by Allie on Unsplash

But that’s not the part of speaking your truth that I’m talking about. I am talking about validating your experiences by voicing them, in a safe space. There are some of our words that have been shoved down for so long they’ve become neglected. And in staying quiet we’re actually negating our own worth. Being careful with your words is not the same as being silent, of not speaking your truth. But if you’ve been silent for so long, you need to have a time and place where you can let your words just come, unrestrained. By letting your voice out, even if there’s no one who can hear your words, you are validating your feelings and experiences. You are showing that you believe you have worth. You are saying, “this is me, this is how I feel.” This is my pain, or anguish, or fear, or anger, or hopes and dreams.

I needed to hear myself say the words…

It took me a while to figure out that there were some things I needed to say out loud. I could think and write about those feelings, but I needed to hear myself say the words. And I’ve found that saying these things out loud to myself has given me the courage to say the things that need to be said to other people.

Photo by Xan Griffin on Unsplash

The first time I tried this was interesting. I decided I needed to say the words out loud and I committed myself to doing it, but I distracted myself with a lot of other things for a time. Finally, I told myself, “enough delaying, just do it.” So, I took a shower with both the fan and some music going (I really didn’t want anyone to hear what I was saying) and started talking. It felt good.

There is a great power in acknowledging your thoughts/feelings. It doesn’t mean that every thought you have defines you, or that just by saying something you’ve committed yourself to the act. No, I think by voicing your feelings, you’re simply voicing the complexity of who you are, as a human being. For instance, I’m a pacifist. I abhor violence. And yet, I can freely admit that there are certain times and situations, where part of me wants to see someone else in great pain. I know there are parts of my anger that could be destructive. If I say that out loud, does it negate my gentle nature? No, it validates my humanness. And it shows both my strength and the power of choice—because I choose not to inflict violence; I choose kindness.

Claiming Yourself

Sharon McCutcheon

So, if you’re ready to start learning how to use your voice, try starting here: find a place to say your words out loud, just to yourself. Your experiences matter. You matter. Voicing your words can empower you and it’s a good step into claiming your own power and validating yourself as an individual. Claim your voice.

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