“There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”– Aristotle
Recently, I embarked on a renewed mission — to find my true voice. This mission was a highly introspective exploration of my past and I knew it was me doing something for myself.
I had been trying to find my real voice for the longest time, over decades. Along the way, I had to stop. Life’s essentials got in the way. The parent has a huge responsibility and I was doing my duty. The rat-race drew me in for many years. I was like a zombie, eating, sleeping and working.
The Early Years
But, there was something even bigger that impeded my progress as a significant voice. Something deep-rooted. Something that stretched back to my childhood. It was the desire for approval. For affirmation. To be liked by everyone, to be the ‘nice’ one, despite the personal toll it would take on me and my future personal growth. Now, as we all know, no one is liked by everyone. It was foolish of me to be ‘nice’ no matter what was thrown at me. I had imposed that persona on myself.
Paired with this, was not being loud enough to be heard. I was usually so quiet, that when I did finally choose to speak, I was not taken seriously. I wondered how much of that was because I was the baby of the family, with a massive age gap between me and my siblings. How did spending hours by myself, without siblings to talk to because they had moved away, influence my ability to articulate my perspective? I examined all these aspects without resentment. I just needed to figure out how to ultimately, transform into this person who had the freedom, without fear of judgment, to speak my truth effectively.
Through the Years
Following my childhood, I spent years listening to people who had to have their say and had to be heard over everyone else. I was the ‘listener’, for the most part.
I got tired of coming across occasional individuals who needed to speak and never put thought into what they had to say. The person who never considers the feelings of others.
You know who I am talking about. That person who fancies himself/herself such an intellectual and spiritual giant that all he/she has to do is open his/her mouth and pearls of pure wisdom and enlightenment fall from their lips. Worse still is the serial gossip who does so much to ruin reputations by embellishing the truth with juicy details that border on the defamatory.
The Voice Emerges
Then, as if my struggle wasn’t real enough, I began telling people what I thought, much more often, even if I really intended to be silent. It was as if, in an almost physical reaction, my mouth would just open and I would say my piece. This event would then be followed by much discomfort from the recipient, even outrage at times because my role was to listen. Very inconvenient. I had been appointed the resident listener and for me to suddenly switch roles was uncalled for.
There were also those I met who felt they were superior to me and thus, there was no need for me to do anything but listen and agree. But that habit of giving my opinion, after much thought, even if it was contrary, kept growing and growing. I could not stop.
I now realize, that the reason the journey had taken so long was actually self-censorship. It was the thorn in my side that dug into my creative flow and my ability to fully express myself. I am aware that I must not use my voice in bitterness or vengefulness because it muddies the message and clarity of my voice and particularly, my writer’s voice. However, silence is not an option.
You see, there are so many of us, in the middle, who really aren’t saying what needs to be said to neutralize those who cannot stop talking to further selfish, even harmful, agendas. In the process these same people are creating a negative and hateful world. They mistake our silence for weakness. If there is a vacuum of opinion, it will suck in whatever voice is floating around outside it. We have drawn a line in the sand and the extremely opinionated have crossed this line.
If we truly want to create a better world for ourselves and for future generations, we need to find our voice. We need to speak up. If you, like me, have restrained yourself, you know the world needs to hear you. You could impact change regardless of how small it is. Our collective voices could mobilize a powerful shift and really be a force for good. Will you join me? Let’s be a force for real, meaningful change.