For as long as I could remember, it has always been difficult for me to speak up, especially when I wanted something. And before you ask, no, there was nothing or no one preventing me from talking; I was just too afraid too. I have a very large family most of which are very outspoken. My soft voice and quiet personality is among the minority, so I’m often talked over and overshadowed. My family loves to debate, but I tend to shut down to avoid confrontation, so I’m usually one of the very few quietly listening to passionate shouting about pop culture, the old days, or whatever topic of discussion is at the round table. My family still teases me about my silent stare whenever I wanted something as a child. I would just stare at them until someone finally offered food, drink, or whatever I was too afraid to ask for, but even then, I would probably say, “No, I don’t want any.” Crazy right? I know.
Well, as you might of guessed, my struggle to speak up as a child has followed me into adulthood continuing to impact my life. My first job after I graduated college was an assistant manager for a big box retailer. It was difficult trying to hold accountable employees twice my age and twice the years of experience. It didn’t help that my boss was a jerk who was always right. It was like he preyed on my weakness.
I vividly remember a situation where I was taking care of a customer in my department when my boss needed my help at the check lanes to help ring out customers. As the assistant manager, the customer in my department always came first. My boss came back to my department and let me have it in front of my employees as well as the customer. I just took it. Later, he apologized in an attempt to justify his behavior, and I didn’t even bother explaining myself because I was too afraid to stand up for myself. I was thinking it wouldn’t make a difference anyway. Maybe it could have, but I’ll never know.
Eventually, my weakness was given a title – Demonstrate Courage. The perfect title! Okay, its not a celebration, but at least it finally had a name. I know my inability to demonstrate courage consistently has held me back from promotions and other professional opportunities in the past, which ultimately led to my retail career demise.
Now, as a mother of three, I see so much of me in my children, especially my three-year-old son, Ethan. He’s such a sweet boy, but he’s also shy and speaks very softly. Just like me, he stares and speaks very timidly when he wants something, and he’ll cry if you don’t acknowledge his stare. But, I won’t allow him to follow in my footsteps. I realize more than ever having three children looking to me for guidance that I have to drop these crutches, because so far they have only allowed me to lead from behind.
So let’s talk. What’s holding you back from speaking up? Fear of rejection? Fear of failing? Fear that someone will actually listen to what you have to say?
What’s my fear? Judgment. I care too much about public opinion, and I’m sick of it. I’m tired of being talked over and overshadowed. I have something to say, and I’m no longer holding my tongue. Now, I am deliberate in making sure that I have an opinion, and I stand on it regardless someone agrees or not. Everyone is entitled, right? I’m speaking up and speaking out!
There is so much power in spoken words. Of course, writing is easier, but choosing to write when you SHOULD use your voice is a cope out. We all know that written messages can have several interpretations and potential misunderstandings. Listen up, it also takes away your power. What I’ve learned on my journey of finding my voice is that speaking up and speaking out loud is not only liberating, it’s empowering.
So I say to you, speak up! Your life depends on it.