08 April 2015

On Sharing Your Voice

(Photo by Saydi Eyre Shumway, of Boston)
I used to not have anything to say.

NADA.

You may not believe me, but people who have known me a long time can probably back me up on that.

I just felt like I didn't have anything to offer. One of my loved ones was particularly critical of me at the time. And back then I felt that disapproval deeply. I believed the messages that were being sent my way: that I was not good enough. That I wasn't valued. And, my voice stopped. There was nothing there.

I can tell you from experience, feeling like you don't have a "voice" is NOT FUN. (Maybe some of you can relate?)

And it affects more than speaking. I would not have been caught dead writing something online. Or sharing my opinion or thoughts in a public setting. Or even leaving a comment on someone's blog. Not even a comment! Ever! I would never accept speaking or teaching assignments in church, either. I felt I had nothing of value to say.

It wasn't until I began to rebuild my self worth from scratch that I began to feel I actually had something worthwhile to say - and the fears involved in sharing it started to melt away. Having some self worth affected EVERYTHING: The way I walked. The way I breathed. The way I interacted with friends. The way I spoke up and shared my opinion or thoughts in public. The way I felt as I laid my head on my pillow at night. The way I felt about being a valued human being in this world. My whole life was transforming before my eyes. It was so miraculous to me that I knew I had to use my voice to help others (welcome to this blog! :) I knew there must be other people out there like me.

I felt that if *I* had a voice in there - deep beneath so much previous worthlessness and fear, that EVERY SINGLE PERSON out there had a voice, too, and it NEEDED TO BE HEARD. The world needs us all. It is a great dream of mine that anything I say here on this blog might help you to use your voice, too.

I guess the point of this post is to just offer HOPE.

Dear readers, have you ever experienced something like this, where your voice seemed to stop? Or maybe you are experiencing it now? Do you feel this started due to an experience or due to someone else who perhaps contributed to silencing you? If you've made it to the other side, it would be awesome to hear.

Love to all,

Mara

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21 comments:

  1. It's not exactly the same thing, but right now all anyone asks me about is my husband and whether or not he got the job he applied to. It's been a long process, and I'm thankful that they are interested and have stuck with us through this. But I'm not my husband! I have other things to say and talk about and share. I haven't lost my voice because I feel bad about myself, but because others only want to hear about my husband.

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    1. Hello dear - isn't it so interesting how vulnerable our voices can be? Your comment went along with something I had been thinking when I wrote this post - that there are just so, so many reasons why we could lose our voice. It seems this could be a whole series. And what you just wrote is certainly one of the ways our voices can be affected. I'm realizing that in families, this probably happens a TON. Perhaps one sibling receives a lot of attention and fuss, leaving the other children feeling like they matter less. I did have a brother who was kind of a science/math genius (like in a Caltech kind of way) and also a basketball star. I don't think I was affected negatively by the attention he got as the eldest of 5 sisters (for me I was more inspired by his success) - but I'm not sure if some of my sisters felt differently. I should ask them!
      And one day I should write about another time I felt my voice go dim. It was actually since I've had this blog. It's a tricky one to write about. There was a situation at church in which the head male leader was not agreeing with the female leadership and actually began changing or canceling some of the beautiful/meaningful plans that the female leadership had in place. I was stunned! That just hit me to the core - that the female voices could be so easily disregarded/controlled/micromanaged/feared. Not everyone knew the details, but I did. And I felt the weight of what was happening so greatly. And yes, it affected my voice. I even stopped blogging for a time. It was the first time I had felt so, so very clearly that my voice as a woman was vulnerable, especially in the Mormon church.

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    2. Mara - your church experience sounds fascinating and like a good illustration of how women's voices are silenced every day by religious institutions, governments, sexist family members and bosses, etc. It would be fascinating to read a blog post on this and on the way it affected you. I hope that in the end it only made your voice louder!

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    3. Yes, I know! It happens day and night around the world - so sad. This experience was actually amazing for me in so many ways. Even though it was hard to see it happening, it was so eye-opening in such a huge way that I no longer can sit by the sidelines and not say something (even though this topic is so so taboo among many in the Mormon church). It has absolutely made my voice stronger. :) In the few years prior I heard rumblings and chatter about gender issues in the church. And I was one of those that was kind of blind to it - and thought that I didn't think it was that big of an issue (simply because I hadn't seen it so blatantly yet myself- even though looking back, it was rampant everywhere.) Blah! Anyway, the experience was a massive education for me. The problem truly is so, so bad. I now stand fully with women and men around the world advocating for change - and have a soft spot for women in religious institutions. I applaud Jimmy Carter who recently left his religion in the name of equality - and feels religions have played a huge part in allowing inequalities to continue.

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  2. Oh Mara this was about me. I decided like two days ago that I was so done sharing anything about myself ever again with anyone. It feels sad but also somehow safer? I have heard too many hurtful things and feel that I can't take one more criticism negative thing misunderstanding. I just can't.
    Exhausted

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    1. Oh my dear - - - - wow. I hear you. Reading this takes me back. I remember feeling the same - that I couldn't take even one more negative thing. Not even one. My friend had a renovation blog and he wanted to put our home up on it. I loved the idea, but didn't love the idea that a negative comment might come in. It was like I couldn't take one more thing. So I asked him to take it down. :\ Anyway, read below for an answer that I gave to another woman who was wanting to find her voice. The tips there will be good for you, too. They are the exact things that helped me to move to the other side - to resist the negative in a healthier way and to not let it affect me deeply. Oh, goodness - sending you love. And I wish you could come to one of our retreats!!!! I think it would help you greatly. Much love, Mara

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  3. I so understand what you are saying. I feel like for quite a while I never really talked about things that truly matter. You know, those deep spiritual truths and other things in life that MATTER. I guess because there were a lot of things I disagreed with some of the people closest to me in my life. It's hard to stand up and say what you think when you know others may end up being disappointed in you. I found that was the hardest thing for me to get over - was disappointment. I always wanted to make others proud (which is not necessarily a bad thing) but it was also causing me to not say what I think or be who I am. Thankfully, I am coming out of the shell now (with the support of a loving husband) to be who I was created to be, be ok with who I am even if others do not see things the same way I do and to stand up for myself. How freeing it is!

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    1. It can definitely be very difficult standing up for what you believe in when those closest to you disagree. I think one reason that can be so difficult, is most of us tend to feel some sense of disapproval and defensiveness when someone dear to us doesn't see things the way we do. I think it can feel a little like rejection, especially when it is as you said "spiritual things that matter". These are the areas of life that are connected more deeply to our being, and so any disagreement is even more deeply felt.

      I'm glad you've been able to come out of that shell, and have support in doing so. Like you said, the key is to be ok with who you are, to value the personal growth and conclusions you've come to, and to not seek as much validation or agreement with those personal matters. Doing that allows you to offer your differing opinion without as much defensiveness, and often leads to better communication in the long run.

      Sounds like you're already there!

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  4. I am turning fifty this summer and would like to have a voice. Do you have any advice on how I can start the process? Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated. I want a voice.

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    1. You dear soul. This comment just got me. Oh, you are a powerful woman in there. Even if you may not feel it - you ARE. The fact that you wrote this - and that you want to improve....wow. That is pure power and it seems it's just on the brim, wanting to be heard. Here are a few tips (forgive me if you are a man, but I'm just assuming you are a woman! :):
      1. Reclaim your highest identity. Think about the identity that got you where you are now without a voice (perhaps it was an identity you care deeply about, but for whatever reason it isn't or wasn't going too well - maybe involving the identity of wife, mother, woman - maybe it's related to your job, or some other identity.) Now consider that that identity is not really who you are. You are someone much greater - much more individual than any of those identities. You are a person with great power and even divinity within you. I believe there is an energy that we all have that connects us to God, to the universe, to everyone here on this earth - you can call it LOVE, divine nature, individual worth - whatever you'd like - but I truly believe it's there and that you can tap into that and let it empower you. You need to let THAT identity begin to define you and dominate who you are and why you do things - instead of letting that other lesser identity define you. Because those lesser identities will fail us again and again.
      2. Work on rewriting the script in your head. Likely you have a script (thoughts) in your head that is saying that you are not good enough for whatever reason - and that your voice doesn't matter. SO, write down some phrases that you WISH you could say about yourself. Stuff like, "I make a difference in people's lives." "I have experiences that are meaningful and that I can share." "I have good ideas and and have something to offer." "My life has purpose and meaning." Whatever it is that you would WANT for yourself and your voice and your worth. Then seriously repeat those phrases often - even daily or a few times a day. Do it for a couple of months and I promise you it will help!!! That negative script is POISON and it can be removed. Replacing it with more positive language about your life is the best way I know of. Also, watch "You Can Heal Your Life" by Louise Hay. This will guide you greatly in changing your script.
      3. There is so much more to share! I've shared a TON on self-worth - and I recommend going to the sidebar where you can see the Self Worth link. Browse through those posts. There are many other angles and ideas there.

      I know that you can have a voice. And actually, you just sharing your voice here on this blog- even to say what you did - was POWERFUL. Don't feel you need to "find" your voice. YOU HAVE ONE. As dim as it may be now, just start using the beautiful voice that you already have. Don't feel you need to be someone else -or sound a different way - or be different that who you are. Just start using your voice in small ways - share what you are going through. Share your hopes and dreams. Share anything at all. Share something when you normally wouldn't. That practice will take you far, far, far. Sharing even a dim voice leads to real connection with others. It leads to healing. It leads to a stronger voice.

      I send you LOVE. I send you HOPE. - Mara

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    2. Thanks Mara. This is a big help. And thank you for the original post. It resonated so strongly with me. It is so motivating to hear that someone else had this issue and overcame it and thrived. Sounds odd but it never occurred to me that other people have experienced the "without a voice" syndrome :) Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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  5. I also had someone close to me who was very critical, and although I've always been a writer and skilled verbal communicator, for several years I sort of just shut down. I didn't feel like I had anything of value to offer. Now, over the past couple of years, I've slowly been reclaiming my voice and self-worth. It is still difficult at times, but I'm getting there... and it is so liberating. We are *meant* to express ourselves, after all.

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    1. Wow! This is really something to read. Somehow I just feel a sisterhood with you as I know that feeling all too well. I want to clap loudly over here after reading that you are reclaiming your voice. Just you sharing this comment here was YOUR VOICE and your experience and just hearing this was powerful to me. May your voice get stronger. May ALL of us be able to share our voices strongly and boldly. I think as women we have an inherited challenge, of course. Simply because throughout history and even now, women's voices are not valued as strongly in so, so, so many places. Anyway, much love to you. Let's carry on, dear friend!!!

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  6. Do you see an link between this and your thyroid condition?

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    1. I have been very, very curious about this, actually! Many holistic healers say that the thyroid is directly related to the voice - to the ability to be heard. It turns out that it was during some of my darkest times (when I felt like I had no voice) when I found out there was something going on with my thyroid. At the time, the blood was hyperthyroid and I had antibodies. A year or so after this, I began my journey to healing - and really did feel "healed" - and also felt my voice getting strong -stronger than it had ever been. I also went off gluten and dairy and did greatly reduce refined sugar at the time (I've now reduced it completely). My thyroid hormones have been now normal for years and the disease has not progressed. Though I still have the antibodies. Anyway - I absolutely do think there is a link!! Now I need to just figure out if I can reduce the antibodies - or at least keep their attack at bay. I try to avoid inflammatory foods at all costs. Have you felt a similar link at all with the thyroid and your voice? This is such a fascinating topic to me.

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    2. Yes, I have the same condition and similar circumstances. I am still working on the sugar part and self-care but find it makes a huge difference to how I feel, my energy etc. It's a life long journey and I have finally managed to be thankful to the illness for making me slow down!

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    3. Fionnuala, I love that you said you managed to be thankful for the illness. That is nothing short of amazing, my dear. I forget sometimes to be thankful. But wow -being forced to change my life (because of infertility, likely due to autoimmune) has been one of the greatest blessings of my lifetime. I really wouldn't trade it. Thanks for the reminder. :)

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  7. Oh my, I was balling as I was reading this post. I'm so glad you wrote about this - it gives me hope. I've felt like this for the last few years, since I got married. Even recently I've felt like all those things that once really mattered to me, and the history of my true identity is getting farther and farther away, like a blur. I want to reclaim my voice and my true identity so badly. I don't blog anymore or even write in my journal, not to mention feel like I have anything worthwhile to give to others. I read your tips to the other commenter - thank you. Your whole journey gives me so much hope!!

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  8. Quick question: I currently dont have enough disposable income to attend one of your US retreats. (good old college tuition). Any chance you would think about making audio copies of the various talks (eg: 60-90 minute talk on identity) - and having them for sale on your blog? I would be happy to pay $100 for a 60/90 minute talk on one topic - and I imagine there are others who would also be interested.

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    1. Anon - thank you for asking. We have thought about doing something like this. We've been wanting to do an online package with our core classes. Then individual classes/topics as well. Anyway, we appreciate this feedback! We hope to have this offering available - though it will take some time since we will have our retreats up next plus we need to get our entire website redesigned on Wordpress so that we can host classes like this. Little by little we'll get there. And we're excited for that day to come as it will provide options for people with various budgets.

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  9. Oh Mara, this is really relatable, perhaps in a different way though. I think it's really important to feel your worth and to love yourself before anyone else can

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