LEARNING TO “SPEAK UP”: UNCOVERING THE POWER OF YOUR OWN VOICE
October 20, 2019
By Catherine Nyika, Holistic Counsellor, Certified Accredited EFT Practitioner, Clinical Social worker & Inner Shine Coach
“Be bold enough to use your voice, brave enough to listen to your heart and strong enough to life the life you’ve always imagined” – Anon
Lately I’ve been struggling with using my own voice and expressing myself fully. There is an underlying fear of being seen and being heard. It’s been a steady companion for me on my journey through life even when I’ve tried to wave it on. People might find that hard to believe when they see all the videos that I post on Facebook and Instagram, but the struggle is real.
Maybe you can relate?
As I look up from my desk I can see the three words I carefully selected with deep intention to carry me through 2019. Words that would motivate and inspire me to show up for myself and other women in ways I find challenging. One of those words is “SPEAK”.
To ‘speak’ is different from simply ‘talking’. When we speak we:
- Say something in order to convey information or to express a feeling
- Talk to in order to reprove or advise.
Ever hear that saying “speak your truth even if your voice shakes?” It’s like I want to speak up about something and then I freeze.
“What if people think I’m too much?
Maybe I’ll look too pathetic?
What if they don’t like it or disagree?
What if I say too much?
What if I share too much?
What if I speak and then I want to take it all back”.
What if, What if? It’s very tiresome.
So, I’ve been reflecting on the numerous times throughout my life I was terrified to share my voice, to speak my truth and questioning my limiting beliefs around speaking. I’ve been remembering the painful experiences where I did have the courage to speak up and it didn’t end so well.
- In my family of origin – “you’re too bossy and dramatic”,
- At school – “you’re too opinionated and boisterous”,
- At work – “you’re too enthusiastic and aggressive, you should know your place”,
- And in intimate relationships – “you’re too demanding & selfish”.
I’m sure you too can recall moments where you chose to speak, and then immediately regretted it – flashes of humiliation, fear, punishment, shame and exasperation all wrapped up with a side of unbearable vulnerability. Fantastic!
It got me to thinking: With the feminine rising, why is it that so many amazing strong and brave women I come across both personal and professionally (including myself), STILL struggle to speak up and share their authentic voices? I have done much inner work & EFT Tapping over the years to dissolve my limiting beliefs (inherited as well as self-taught) and if I still hold back on sharing my voice, just how many other women fear activating their voices and what needs to happen in order for women to feel safe to use this powerful instrument we have been gifted?
Voice suppression is central to women’s history. Being unable to tell your story can destroy our souls and literally put us in danger. Even today it’s a reality that women no matter how much they succeed and find themselves in positions of power, still suffer from an addiction to making other people happy, more comfortable and not causing a fuss.
Recently a gorgeous, successful, high achieving client of mine was sharing with me her disbelief that she had questioned her herself and her own voice even when she felt she was in danger. She was out walking on her own when she came across a man lurking in the trees with what appeared to be a dangerous weapon. Her body gave her all the signs that she was in danger, her gut told her something was really wrong and although she got herself out of the vicinity instantly, she questioned her own judgment of the scene she witnessed – did she imagine it? And then her conditioned mind checked in with all the questions:
Was she overreacting?
What if no one believed her?
Who should she tell?
Would she inconvenience the authorities and her husband (who was trying to nap) if she called them?
She doubted her own body and mind and felt powerless to speak up. After some time she did what she knew was the right thing to do and called the police – after thinking it through and checking in with her husband first for validation and reassurance. She was shocked at the way she doubted herself and shut down her own voice and felt embarrassed to share that with me.
But here’s the thing, even though so many of us have been trained to not bother people and not ask for help, our stories matter, they are important and sometimes they save our lives. There are way too many of us out their listening to the noise of the world, tied to the gender borders or boundaries of the past, instead of listening to our own voice and our own soul. I experienced my own voice paralysis earlier this year at a kid’s birthday party. I was there with my 4 year old who was off playing whilst I chatted with some of the mums, when a man I had never met before approached me, and started a verbal attack on me. According to him my child had knocked over his daughter intentionally and he wanted to have it out with me. Over the course of the next few minutes (although it seemed like an eternity) he verbally abused me and my son, calling him a ‘disturbed animal’, ‘unfit to be at parties’ and that I was a bad mother who is negligent for sitting down to have a cup of tea when I should be watching my son’s every move. He was wagging his finger at me and shouting right up in my face, cornering me but away from the line of vision of everyone else was so that no one could witnessed this interaction.
Writing this now I can see this for what it was – an explosive, over-protective father with anger management issues who “flipped his lid” watching this incident unfold, which is of course something that sometimes happens between kids. At the time I was so shocked, embarrassed and humiliated and I crumpled into a massive shame spiral. I froze and I lost my voice. I wasn’t able to speak up for my son or myself. Chances are it wouldn’t have made any difference anyway with someone like him but for weeks afterward, I lay awake at night thinking about all the things I ‘could have’ and ‘should have’ said to him. Some of those things would have been witty retorts designed to emasculate him unknowingly and others would have resembled physical actions copied from “Black Panther”’s elite female warriors of Wakanda.
Instead, I waited until he had left and I cowered in a corner sobbing in pain and distress. When I debriefed with girlfriends about this incident over the next few days, they all made the same comment – “he would never have done that if you were a man”. If my son’s dad had been at the party instead of me, I know that scene would never have happened. I was woman, and a woman of colour too, in a moon-boot (I had injured my ankle) alone and vulnerable – the perfect prey. I felt intimidated, offended and small. I lost my voice because there was a part of me that was terrified that maybe he was right about my son and I. I wasn’t able to use my voice to explain to the host what I had experienced because I didn’t want her to feel awkward and uncomfortable and I also worried that I was being over dramatic – after all, he “only yelled in my face and verbally abused me and my son at a party we were invited to”.
As a holistic therapist and a practitioner of EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) I am fascinating in uncovering what keeps us women from expressing ourselves fully and why we still get blocked even after centuries and centuries of repression. I have supported and guided 100’s of women on their journey towards self-love, emotional freedom and personal growth & expansion, and three of the major common blocks I see to uncovering the power of our voices are:
- Disconnection from self
- External validation, being accommodating/people pleasing
- Family narratives and societal conditioning
Disconnection from self: Sadly so many of us are disconnected from the truth of who we really are. We don’t know how to love and accept ourselves just as we are in the here and now. We compare ourselves with others in real life and on social media, and we willingly let society determine what the definition of womanhood is. Many of us feel defective and lacking, inadequate, weak and incompetent. We are afraid of standing out and lack the confidence in knowing that our feelings and opinions matter or make a difference.
Keeping other people happy: We hold back our voices in order to keep others happy and because we have a deep-seated fear of losing love, admiration and respect if we speak our truths. We care about what others will think of us so we think carefully before we speak. The external validation we get from others meets our needs for acceptance, belonging, connection and affection. Why would we risk feeling accepted by others in the world (which is what we do when we “speak up) when it’s easier to go along with the crowd and be who people want us to be? We choose to stay quiet to avoid confrontation. Women are also notorious for always apologising, for everything. We are still apologising for existing in the spaces we find ourselves in today.
Family narratives & Societal Conditioning: Our family narratives are stronger and more powerful than we realize. For example I grew up the middle child, the only girl with four brothers – the only one with her own room. It was the 80’s and I had a sticker on my bedroom door that said “Girls can do ANYTHING” and yet any time I spoke up, voiced my opinion or objected to something that didn’t feel inclusive to me, I was labelled “a drama queen”, “Miss Piggy”, “too much”, or a attention seeker. My father used to get really cross with my brothers if they didn’t do their best on a test but he always seemed just grateful that I had passed. My educational outcomes didn’t seem as important to him as my brothers. He also seemed more frustrated with me if I voiced my strong opinions compared with my brothers. When your truth is dismissed as wrong, invalid or irrelevant, especially in childhood, you often just stop talking. Those conflicting narratives of “girls can do anything versus “don’t be too opinionated and take up too much space” had a very powerful influence on my limiting beliefs – it was not safe to “speak up”.
AND it’s not just me – the voices of many women and young girls have remained repressed, unheard, ignored, undermined, marginalised for centuries. Sadly, there remains in our DNA, the internalised scars of a dialogue around who is allowed to speak, what can be said and who will listen.
An amazing woman once said of us women “we are volcanoes, when we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains”. When we choose silence over expressing our voice, we all suffer. It time for us to uncover the power behind our voices. Of course you can choose to believe it’s much safer to keep quiet because it takes courage and vulnerability to speak up but I’m called to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves – How about you?
I’ve known it’s my calling to use my voice as well as my therapy skills and expertise to help empower other women who feel they have lost their authentic voice. That’s probably why I was destined to became a Social Worker. I’m hear to champion women who are sick and tired of feeling way I felt for most of my life.
Not good enough…
No longer will we deny our own voices and our own needs. We demand to be heard and seen because our voices matter.
So how is it I can help women like you unleash your voice when you feel unheard and unseen?
I help women release the emotional and physical blocks in the body that prevent them from sharing their voice and their stories by using EFT Tapping. If you are new to EFT tapping please refer to my other blog post:
Post on EFT
To begin to release your blocks when it comes to “speaking up”, go ahead and try this tapping script as you tap on the acupressure points as referred to in the picture:
Side of the hand: Even though I’m feeling a little unheard right now and my voice feels blocked, I accept myself as I am.
Even though I struggle to speak my true authentic voice at times, I honour my voice even in my silence.
Even though there are situation that really have me feeling afraid to speak my voice, I’m open to loving and accepting myself anyway.
Top of the head: I feel my voice is blocked
Eyebrow: I feel afraid to speak my voice?
Side of eye: I deny my own voice out of fear?
Under the eye: What would they think of me?
Under the nose: What if they don’t believe me?
Chin: What if my voice doesn’t matter?
Collarbone: What if I feel vulnerable and embarrassed?
Under the arm: What if I speak my voice and they alienate me, what if I’m not even heard?
Take a deep breath in through the nose and out through the mouth
Back to the top of the head: All these fears about speaking my voice
Eyebrow: It makes sense I feel afraid
Side of eye: It’s hard to take risks and I’ve regretted it in the past
Under the eye: But my voice is important
Under the nose: My voice matter
Collarbone: I’m worthy of having my feelings, thoughts and opinions heard and validated
Under the arm: I choose to speak my voice even if it shakes
Top of the head: It is now safe to share my voice and so it is, peace.
Take a deep breath in through the nose and out through the mouth
I’d love to hear how that was for you. EFT Tapping is amazing and has changed my life in so many rich and rewarding ways.
One last message for all you beautiful women out there who struggle to unleash the power of your own voice:
“You are important and you matter,
Your feelings matter,
Your voice matters
Your story matters,
If you would like to find out more about how to work with me, please contact me at: [email protected]