What does it mean to “find your voice,” and more importantly, how does someone actually do that? How do you put beliefs and values into words and then take it a step further and have the courage to express them publicly?
If you have ever found the concept of “finding your voice” difficult, I understand. For a long time, I didn’t share a lot of my experiences or my truth online. The main thing holding me back was fear.
I was terrified to share my views on fitness (and the need for more inclusivity), race, and feminism because the last thing I wanted to be labeled as was another “angry Black woman.” As a recovering perfectionist, I found the idea even more difficult because I really wanted people to like me.
Over time, I grew increasingly discontent because I found myself saying all the things I thought I should be saying and less and less of what I wanted to be saying.
Although I wanted people to like me, I realized that people could only like the real me if I showed them who I really am.
Where do you start with “finding your voice”? I suggest asking yourself a few questions.
If you answered yes to any of the last four questions, don’t be alarmed. I was riddled with fear, doubt, and worry for quite some time. The idea of using my voice and sharing my thoughts publicly seemed unfathomable.
However, finding your voice and speaking your truth is so important. The world needs the message you have to share, and no one else can share it quite like you.
“Speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.” — Oprah
Here are four tips to help you begin the process of “finding your voice.”
Unapologetically own who you are. There is nothing less satisfying than pretending to be someone you are not. Your quirks, your personality, your point of view, your experiences — those are the things that make you who you are.
Don’t be afraid to show people the real and vulnerable sides of you. In the world of social media, where everything seems perfect and polished, being yourself is a breath of fresh air.
Take the time to think critically about what exactly you stand for:
Take the time to discover your values for yourself. Once you have given yourself the space to do this, you can begin to consider how to communicate this information to other people.
As scary as it might seem, drawing a line in the sand about the things you do or don’t stand for is incredibly freeing.
As an intersectional feminist, I take a hard stance on issues of racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, and sexism, among others. Staying neutral is an option that no longer feels comfortable for me.
Once I stopped being so concerned with what everyone else would think or say, I found the liberation to not only “find my voice” — but to actually start using it. Finding your voice ultimately comes down to just doing it. The analogy of ripping off a bandage is quite fitting here.
The first time I shared something that really scared me, I pushed Publish and hid from the internet for the next four hours.
Doing it afraid is OK. Do it in the face of your fear.
While finding your voice is a very gratifying process, the truth remains that it takes a ton of courage, and inevitably there will be people in your life who may not enjoy or agree with everything you say or share.
Most people don’t enjoy upsetting the people they care about. However, it’s quite possible that this will happen at some point.
While it will likely never be perfect, there are a few things we can do to make these conversations as productive as possible.
As much as I would love to tell you that one day this will all feel easy, that’s most likely not the case. In fact, there will likely always be some level of discomfort when you draw a line in the sand about your values and decide to share them publicly.
I challenge you to embrace the discomfort and to take it a step further and lean into it. There’s beauty on the other side of discomfort. Finding your voice and having the courage to say hard things is one of the benefits.
It can feel easy to condemn people and get really easily frustrated when people don’t see things our way, particularly when it comes to issues related to politics, race, or sexuality. One of the best things we can do is remain calm.
Resist the urge to make personal attacks or resort to name-calling. I always like to remember that everyone is at a different place in their journey. Many of the views I had in my younger years are not reflective of the person I am now.
Give people the space to grow and change.
That doesn’t mean we have to continue supporting their work or turn a blind eye. It means we can hold people accountable while acknowledging that we should attempt to keep our discourse respectful, even when we are certain they are wrong.
It’s also really important to listen without the intention of attempting to win the argument or debate. So much can get lost when we don’t take the time to actually listen to one another.
As much as we wish all of our friends, families, and clients were as socially conscious as we are, that simply won’t be the case. The sooner we can accept that people will disagree with us, the easier it will be for us in the long run.
At painful as it may sound, there are times where we have to reevaluate our relationships. People change, and sometimes our values no longer align with the values of other people in our lives. Sometimes that means the nature of the relationship changes as well.
No matter what you choose to do or not do in life, someone will be unhappy with you. That’s totally OK. Life is not a popularity contest. Losing followers or subscribers as a result of finding your voice and speaking your truth is to be expected. But the beauty is that those individuals will be replaced with people who love you for who you are and will appreciate your voice. We aren’t for everybody, and it’s OK if someone doesn’t like us.
When I found my voice and began sharing about struggles with body image and my experiences as a Black woman in an industry that lacks inclusivity, I began receiving dozens and dozens of messages from people who not only related to my feelings and experiences, but also appreciated that I put words to things they had been struggling with for years.
My desire to help other people outweighs the fear that comes with sharing my experiences publicly. It has become my responsibility instead of just an option. Finding my voice has become not only an outlet for myself, but a tool to help others as well.
In the words of Audre Lorde, “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”
Our collective voices have so much power to create change in the world. The days of silently sitting by the sidelines are over.
Now, more than ever, the world needs us to show up, to put our privilege on the line, and to use our voices to spread awareness.
Let’s choose to be on the right side of history.
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