I remember like it was just yesterday, being 12 years old, walking home from the bus stop, trying to nonchalantly power walk my way down the street while my three neighbors meandered behind me loudly making fun of what I was wearing and who I was.
I would burst through the door to my house with tears streaming down my face, heart wrenched with shame.
In all those years though, I never spoke up. I never stood up for myself. I just let them bully me, slap me, tease me, and embarrass me in front of friends, adults, strangers.
It was tremendously painful. And I had hoped a thing that stayed in middle school.
But unfortunately, bullying doesn’t stop as we grow older, it just becomes more insidious. We find ourselves being stuck in a bad contract we can’t get out of because the company is refusing to honor their word.
We find ourselves staying up late working on a project that our co-worker should be doing and will probably get most of the credit.
We find ourselves keeping quiet when our business partner bulldozes their ideas without honoring our own needs.
It seems like there will always be strong forces outside of ourselves that want to silence us, kill our song, keep us quiet.
Combine that with our caregivers consciously or unconsciously silencing us for being loud and rowdy, lack of modeling around proper boundaries, and a society that is determined to keep women down… it’s no wonder we find ways to justify our inaction.
We tell ourselves there’s nothing we can do. This is just the way it is. That there’s no point. That we will get fired or be shunned from society.
Or we get so angry at the system that we blindly take action that ultimately comes back and haunts us, furthering our sense of victimization and hopelessness.
So we continue not speaking up.
We don’t speak up when our loved one makes a racist comment. We don’t speak up when we see someone throw plastic into the ocean. We don’t speak up when someone crosses our personal space.
Lately I’ve been asking myself… and at what cost?
The cost became very real to me when I had to recently navigate a challenging relationship with a person I care about very much. As I was unapologetically claiming more space in the world, this person made it clear that who I was becoming was not ok for her. It got to the point where I realized if I didn’t speak up, I was going to get swallowed up. But I also had no desire to alienate this person from my life.
So I had to begin to really face the fears from childhood, and start speaking my truth with her again and again and again, with kindness, with compassion, with love... all the while noticing my propensity to run, to avoid, to victimize. All the inner work I had done in my life lead me up to that point.
This practice has been revolutionary for me. Activating my voice has fueled my confidence and capacity to really show up for myself. It's helped me develop a sense of self-love I never knew before... the "I got your back" love. And mostly, it's shown me what is possible in my own strength, that I really can have deep, meaningful boundaries and conversations.
Speaking up is important on an individual and collective level. Our silence will not save us.
So I invite you to look at the areas in your life where you aren’t speaking up. A great place to begin is to answer the following question, “I am afraid to speak up because ______.” Get to the root issue by finishing the sentence as many times as you can.
Once you’ve finished that list, ask yourself what it’s costing you to not speak up. Maybe it’s more clients or greater financial freedom. Maybe it’s a raise or greater transparency in your relationship. Maybe it’s feeling like you’ve got your own back. And then, it’s time to get clear on what you’re willing to do about it.
It’s time step into this brave, tender, big space, sister. Your voice, your stories, your power is so needed.
Recently, Maxine Waters spoke against the Treasury Secretary with a reclamation of her time. It was epic. And a reminder that this strength to stand up for ourselves is possible within all of us. It’s time to reclaim our voice. Our world depends on it.
To your spotlight,