Last week I shared with you how I have been feeling during this turbulent time and why I feel so strongly about using my voice now more than ever.
While I am driven to use my voice more powerfully now because I want to lend my energy and power to those things that align with my values and beliefs, I realize that along the way, there have been times in my life that I had the opportunity to speak up, and yet chose not to.
And I realize that I am not the only one.
As women, we don’t negotiate for better salaries, raises or promotions.
We aren’t advocating for ourselves in our lives and careers.
We don’t tell our partners what we want or what isn’t working for us in our relationships.
We aren’t asking for a seat at the tables where our input and wisdom can be used to make the greatest impact.
As I look back, for many years I didn’t do these things either.
The question is, why didn’t I and why aren’t we?
From my first job and for many years after, I sat back and waited for my hard work, commitment and performance to be noticed. I thought that was how it all worked; that if I focused, produced and played nicely with my colleagues that I would be recognized, celebrated and of course, promoted to increasingly better titles and salaries.
Oh how little I knew then and how wrong I was.
I sat in performance review after performance review listening to an uninspired manager account for my accomplishments only to have each meeting end with a request to sign the document as having been “successfully completed”. Not one manager over the years asked me where I saw myself going, what professional (or personal) development I might benefit from or how I could add more value to the team, department or company. I thought this was how it was supposed to work.
For years I allowed the men I dated and eventually the one I married, to “be who they were” and I worked tirelessly to understand and support them, even when there were things I needed and wanted to say that they might not want to hear. I had always been the one to “cave”, the one to apologize when dipping my toe in the “asserting my voice on my own behalf” waters began to ruffle his feathers. Eventually I simply gave up because I thought it was how it was supposed to work.
Shockingly, I have never taken a seat on a Board of a any company or organization. In fact, until recently I had not even taken the initiative to let the leadership of the organizations and causes that I am most passionate about know that I am available to support them in a myriad of ways. I figured that over time, my name would come up and that is how I would find my way to working on behalf of a cause. That’s how I thought it would work.
Thinking about how I use my voice has caused me to reflect on the many ways that I have, and yet over the years have not, owned its power and asserted its strength. As I took a few minutes yesterday to actively think about this I realized that the same things that hold us back from speaking up also prevent us from taking action. Let me explain.
People take action when the pain of staying where you are is greater than the pain of the uncertainty of what is to come.
It is that simple.
The same holds true when considering speaking up. When the pain of staying silent grows stronger than the risk of using your voice and speaking up, you will speak.
I made the decision a long to time ago to let go of mediocrity in my life, to walk through the fear of potential loss and take risks to create the life, love and career that I desire.
And I haven’t stopped since.
I know now that it is imperative for me to advocate on my own behalf, personally and professionally.
I no longer wait for someone to take notice of, validate or invite my success. Instead I now share openly and proudly my passion, commitment, and performance. I celebrate my own accomplishments, identify areas where I can strengthen my assets and where I can improve; documenting them appropriately to enhance conversations and any kind of performance reviews. Conversations may result in not agreeing (and even debate) but I don’t shrink from walking in my full worth.
I never hesitate to add value to a conversation, sharing my thoughts and evidence based arguments. I don’t seek out an invitation to contribute, I boldly (although sometimes with a lot of fear) assert my voice, my opinions and what I think might be useful to accomplish the desired outcome. I have spent years in school, in training and working to gain experience and expertise…I now view speaking up as an obligation and responsibility to honor my well earned talents.
I speak openly and honestly in all of my relationships, including my intimate love partnerships. While we may not agree, he may not want to hear it and it may cause discomfort, that never prevents me from showing up and using my full (kind and compassionate) voice. I know that should my strong and powerful voice cause the loss of a relationship, then it wasn’t a relationship truly meant to be. It is my obligation to be me…and to stand firmly in what I believe and all that I stand for.
Most recently, I have taken an even stronger approach to using my voice and enter a more visible, online platform that hopefully will help to create a beautiful world for my children and one day, grandchildren. I have never been political but these are times that have called to and inspired me to advocate not just for myself, but for all that hold dear.
Use your voice to express your beauty and richness my friends….because you have the freedom to do so and you can.