What does it mean to have a voice? To an author, a voice is the personality and tone with which one communicates in writing. To a psychologist, having a voice is the ability to express your feelings, communicate assertively, and advocate for yourself even when it is difficult. In life, voice is a powerful and elevating skill.
So many of us have had life experiences or an upbringing that injured our voice instead of promoting and nurturing it. To communicate on behalf of ourselves, it helps to come from a place of confidence and internal strength which can be negatively impacted by an unsupportive, undermining, or abusive history. There is hope, though, because everyone can grow and heal!
Are you effectively able to stand up for yourself? To advocate for yourself when someone is bullying you? To assert your needs and ask for help when you need it? If you are, that’s fantastic! If you feel that you could use some help in those areas, here are some suggestions.
Ideas for growing your voice:
- Explore areas of life that may have negatively impacted your self-worth, confidence, or sense of who you are. Identify where you may have barriers to speaking up, look for ways to heal from difficult events, and seek therapy for healing in areas that are harder to overcome.
- Focus on areas in which you are good at assertiveness, limits, and direct communication (for example, when you stick up for your good friend or child) and identify the thoughts and feelings that lead you to speak on their behalf.
- Shift how you think about yourself in interactions (for example, when you express a need, think of yourself as having a legitimate need – not as imposing on others)
- Stay clear that you are “on the same level” as other people – not below them or above them.
- Notice the language you use about yourself. Is it uplifting, positive, and gentle or is it angry, guilty, and shaming? Talk about yourself out loud the way you would talk about a friend. Talk to yourself inside your head the same way!
- Practice assertive statements. “I was next in line.” “Please talk to me calmly and respectfully.” “I am not interested in going out with you.”
- Remember that you are responsible for your own feelings and others are responsible for theirs. If you need to say something or set a limit that may hurt their feelings, that is up to them to manage. You are free to make the statement or set the limit.
As you practice these skills, remember that developing your voice is a process and there will be successes and failures along the way. But if you continue to train yourself to speak up, you will see a life changing difference over time!