Finding Your Voice
Welcome back! In our previous lesson, we talked about women lacking confidence and why we need it. In this lesson, we’ll learn about finding our voice and speaking up.
Have you ever said what you think only to be talked over or shot down by someone else? By your partner, your boss, parents, or friend? Or even a stranger? It’s happened to me many times in the past. Speaking up and saying what you think is sometimes challenging.
We feel as though we’re lacking in some way and so we shy away from speaking up. We undermine our ability, our talent, and our role. We’ll only focus on the negatives, denying and ignoring anything that suggests we’re coping or doing well.
Women are seen as nurturers who take care of children and other people. It is an on-going internal battle around wanting to speak up, but not doing so because we feel obligated to make others feel comfortable.
This often comes at the expense of our comfort and our happiness.
So, we don’t say what we think.
But, for so many women:
• Our thoughts become an endless cycle of second-guessing ourselves.
• Empathy becomes “I must upset anyone.”
• Our intention becomes “I must not speak up. Because being liked is better than taking this risk of not being liked.”
Does this sound familiar?
Taking care of people’s feelings is admirable. It is a strength—but it can also paralyze you with exhaustion, anxiety, and pressure because you yourself are not being heard. Your needs and wants are not being met.
We need to unlearn modesty and stop staying small, we all need to speak our truth. As a child, I was always told to be quiet and keep my thoughts to myself. And, when you are told this as a child, it becomes your way of being. This becomes your inner dialogue.
Our accomplishments don’t and won’t speak for themselves. As women, we need to self-promote and become comfortable and safe in doing so. Women need to share their stories. Because other women could read, or listen to these stories, and it could help them.
What Can We Do to Find Our Voice Again?
Breathe before you speak: Speaking up is nerve-wracking and stressful! Even, if it’s answering a question, or asking one. It can cause your head to spin and your heart to pound and make it harder to catch your breath and speak clearly.
It can also make you nervous, so remember to slow things down. A big deep breath causes the heart rate to slow. It gives us the ability to reassure our body that everything is okay right now. You’re okay.
Take a deep breath. Contract the diaphragm and expand your belly as you inhale, and then let out a deep exhale. It makes the body feel more relaxed and calm during a time of pressure, especially if you repeat the cycle three to ten times.
Another great exercise is to speak “on the breath.” Take a big deep breath and instead of holding it in. Use that breath to support your words, letting it out steadily while you are speaking. Practice these exercises to see if they help.
Preparation: If you’re nervous about an upcoming interview. A meeting or a difficult conversation you need to have. It’s crucial to practice again and again. And, run it by a friend or someone you feel comfortable around.
Write it, read it aloud. Practice in front of a mirror. Or film yourself reading it. Ask a friend to read it in front of you so you can see how it sounds and if it flows. Do all this until you feel comfortable with what you’re saying.
Don’t expect things to go well if you go and wing it on the day. It rarely goes well if you don’t prepare! And, if people ask you questions and you get flustered. Remember you don’t have to answer there and then. You can say something like: “That’s a great question, thank you.” Or, “I’d like some time to think about that, and I’ll come back to you.”
Let go of perfection: Perfectionism doesn’t exist, it doesn’t. The fear that we’re not going to say something correctly and perfectly. Or get our thoughts across as clearly as we like. Stops us from speaking up. This is a very limiting factor keeping us all from shining and excelling.
The person that speaks from their heart will often make people feel more inspired than the person that says the perfect thing or gives the perfect anecdote without conviction.
We must say what we think at work because we’re hired for our brain, our unique perspective, and our ideas. I like a quote from Cindy Gallop “It’s often not until you say what you really think that you know what you really think.” How true, is this?
When you speak, think about keeping control and powering through to the end of the sentence. I hear so many women drop off at the end of sentences.
People don’t know if you’ve finished and it doesn’t sound thought through. Think about your pace and your endings from speaking up in the past, could you be mindful of this and work on this?
Your task: Aaron Beck’s cognitive model suggests that events are not directly responsible for the way we feel. Instead, it is the interpretation of those events – our thoughts – that trigger our emotional responses. His model suggests that we can change how we feel by changing how we think.
Keeping a thought record can be a useful exercise to challenge negative thinking. Here’s an example:
• What’s the situation or the thought? I have a report to write.
• Identify and rate your mood after this thought. Sad, worried, insecure.
• Negative automatic thought (NAT). I’m not good enough to complete a report.
• Facts that support this thinking. I’m not experienced enough, and I’m not clever enough.
• Facts that don’t support this thinking. My boss has asked me to do it; she thinks I can.
• Real or objective thought. This will be a new challenge for me to learn from.
• Rate how you feel now. I am excited, capable, self-assured.
In the next lesson, we’ll learn about building your resilience.
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