When it comes to women's empowerment, it's all about speaking up from your inner voice. Yet, despite feminism, equal rights, and the need for empowering women with strong female role models being such hot topics today, many strong women still have trouble finding ways to feel a truly empowered sense of self-esteem within themselves.
For example, do you have difficulty knowing who you are and what you stand for? Have you been dismissed and ignored? Did someone make you feel like what you had to say wasn't interesting or worth listening to? Did you feel like what you had to say wasn't good enough?
If you answered "Yes", there’s no doubt that you’ve had challenges with finding — and using — your voice. You may have been humiliated or punished as a child. You may have been taught that what you had to say wasn't worthwhile.
Whether you were told to shut up or whether it was implied by your parents, teachers, an authority figure, a friend, or a boyfriend, you know you’re ready to find empowerment and use your voice.
Some of the typical things you have heard include:
"You are to be seen, not heard. (Meaning you have to look good and be perfect.)
"Be ladylike." (Read: Don't speak up and be quiet.)
"Silence is golden."
Or maybe you were told to:
"Hold your tongue."
"Shut your trap."
"Shut your face."
"Put a lid on it."
What happens to girls who get the message that what they have to say is not important?
They end up feeling like men are more important and that women should just listen. They end up feeling powerless because not having a voice leaves you invisible. They end up having a fake front and accommodating everyone.
At the Royal Foundation Forum, Meghan Markle said this about empowering women:
"I hear a lot of people speaking about girls’ empowerment and women’s’ empowerment...You’ll often hear people say well, you’re helping women find their voices. And I fundamentally disagree with that because women don’t need to find their voices, they have a voice. They need to be empowered to use it, and people need to be encouraged to listen. And I think right now in the climate that we’re seeing so many campaigns — I mean, #MeToo and TimesUp — there’s no better time than [now] to really continue to shine a light on women feeling empowered and people really helping to support them…It [the spotlight] makes such a tremendous difference."
I really like what Meghan said. She has an excellent point. There are many women who have a voice and don’t feel heard. Are you one of those women?
And, there are many women who do need to find their voice. Can you imagine how you’ll feel when you can be yourself, speak up, and be heard?
One of the most important needs you have is to be known. What you have to say allows another to be in your world and understand you. You matter. Your experience and viewpoint are unique to you. Sharing it can make a difference in your life and in the life of others.
What you have to say is a contribution to the Conversation. The greatest form of intimacy is communication. Tell your story.
Here are 10 ways that you can get started with finding your voice:
1. Discover yourself.
Take some time to reflect on who you are. How are you feeling?
Ask yourself, “What do I want? What do I need?"
But, if looking at who you are is not working for you, try the next one.
2. Identify the current situation.
Look at what you don’t like about what’s happening in your life and come up with the opposites. You may see yourself through this different perspective.
"If I don’t like______, then that means I like________."
"If I’m not_________, then I might be_______."
Give it a shot!
3. Get to your "why".
Why do you want to find your voice? Do this:
Take out a piece of paper and write: "What about finding my voice is important to me?"
Then take whatever the answer was to the question above and use it to fill in the blank for the next time you ask: "What about________________is important to me?"
Continue with this process seven times and you will get a deeper understanding of yourself. This understanding is meaningful and supports your moving forward.
4. Figure out what obstacles will you face if you claim and use your voice.
Consider what might get in the way of you moving forward with finding and using your voice.
It could be some fear of rocking the boat since you’d be doing something different. Maybe you think people won’t take you seriously.
5. Write your own rules.
Whose rules are you living by? How have you lost yourself in following someone else’s guidelines that didn't allow you to have a voice?
Can you come up with a set of rules that are in synch with who you are and what you stand for?
6. Figure out whose approval is most important to you.
How have you sacrificed yourself to get approval from others?
How is avoiding disapproval getting in the way of you finding your voice?
7. Own your story.
Love and respect yourself as you identify what you’ve gone through. This challenge will lead you to accept yourself.You will no longer feel the need to prove yourself to anyone.
8. Accept yourself.
You may be the one telling yourself to shut up. Stop judging and criticizing yourself so that you will stop shutting yourself down.
9. Be true to yourself.
What are your priorities? What are your values? What will it take for you to live in alignment with your values?
Commit to living to what’s important to you.
10. Use your imagination.
Try a rehearsal. Practice using your voice while talking to the person/people you’d like to speak up with.
If you need a little inspiration try Brene Brown’s "Manifesto of the Brave and Brokenhearted" from her book, Rising Strong.
Read this out loud! Use your voice! Live true to yourself!
Manifesto Of The Brave And Brokenhearted
There is no greater threat to the critics and cynics and fearmongers Than those of us who are willing to fall Because we have learned how to rise.
With skinned knees and bruised hearts; We choose owning our stories of struggle, Over hiding, over hustling, over pretending.
When we deny our stories, they define us. When we run from struggle, we are never free. So we turn toward truth and look it in the eye.
We will not be characters in our stories. Not villains, not victims, not even heroes.
We are the authors of our lives. We write our own daring endings.
We craft love from heartbreak, Compassion from shame, Grace from disappointment, Courage from failure.
Showing up is our power.
Story is our way home. Truth is our song. We are the brave and brokenhearted. We are rising strong.