Are you afraid to use your voice?
Summer greetings to you all from the wild west coast of Scotland. I’ve based myself here recently to keep working on giving myself permission and taking my work out to the world. It’s a blustery day today and the perfect opportunity to write to you about something that’s always on my mind. One of the big obstacles I face in doing my work is giving myself permission to use my voice.
As women we have spent a great deal of our lives watching how unsafe it has been for a woman to use her voice. From the Vatican to the governments of the world. From school to the office. From Twitter to the dinner table. We have experienced or watched as even the smallest expression of the truth of how we feel or what we want is dismissed or shamed or attacked. When we defend ourselves or our ideals our anger is also vilified and we are told how unattractive that is in a women. We are taught to serve others first and then use the time that’s left to figure ourselves out. Quietly. Without bothering others. If you have any energy left.
I rejected so many of those things long ago, but there is still an internalised gag-rule that I have to fight almost every time I choose to speak up. And with the gift of hindsight, I understand now why historically I did all my speaking up on behalf of other people’s work. I found that much easier. But it’s my work now, and my words, and I needed to learn the secret to side-step the silencing fear and keep sharing my voice.
The secret is simple and not easy, like most true things. I have a plan. I have a plan for where I am trying to go in the world and as myself. I’ve given myself time to investigate what I want and who I want to be and now I can measure my choices, and others reactions to them, against that idea. I can look at my available choices and know which are taking me towards my idea of myself and which are intolerable to me. For example it’s intolerable to me that we continue to not hear from women about their experiences and contributions to our world. I want to hear your words and experience your art. So I try to do what little I can from my corner because it’s more important to me to do that then worry about the possibility that someone thinks my work is stupid. Everyday I make choices that help strengthen my foundation of understanding who I am and what is important to me. And from here I plan.
I plan to reject shouty criticism that simply finds fault with me speaking at all.
Having a plan allows me to decouple unsubscribes and refund requests from my sense of self. And I get to choose to centre consent and willingly offer people a way out frequently in my communications and in my course (you can unsubscribe at the bottom of the email).
I choose to make a plan to remind myself that my worth is not connected to my desirability or the pleasingness of my appearance to people I neither know or respect and I’ll dismiss those kind of responses immediately. I make a plan to remember that though they can be incredibly hurtful they aren’t actually about me. The pain comes because a small part of me still believes my value is actually only in my appearance and these kind of comments mean I’ve failed. Instead of giving any time to the actual comment I make a plan to give myself all the love and tools I need to keep healing from that idea. I plan to use it as an opportunity to put another brick in my foundation of an existence as a person free of that patriarchal construct.
I make a plan for the fact that I’m going to be wrong about some things and people will tell me. I can learn. My value as a human is not tied to some idea that I’m already perfect. Plan to remember that and be curious about what others are offering. You don’t have to get it right all the time. You won’t.
I’m not perfect at implementing my plan. Sometimes I have to reach deeply for it. Sometimes I reach for my plan a little late. But having the plan is what allows me to step into the world using my voice and leaving behind me a slightly smoother path to follow for the next person who chooses it.
Lots of love,