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ecently, my voice went out- right in the middle of a phone call. I could barely squeak out the words, aghast and helpless as my voice faded, quite literally. Once I was off the phone it took a good 30 minuses to relax and my hoarse voice slowly came back to normal. This was not the first time.
As university professor at UCLA, I had to speak loud and clear into a microphone before well over a hundred students and avid listeners. In those situations I never had any problems projecting my voice with a measure of assertiveness and clarity.
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Do you have a voice that goes out or fades off whenever you are nervous and most need your voice to speak out and assert your point?
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Does your voice quit on you when you are unexpectedly nervous or almost mute itself so your words just seem to fade? Or on the flip side do find yourself suddenly burst out inappropriately and lash out sharp words in rush of anger and rage?And afterwards you don’t feel so good about it.
So what happened when my voice would ‘go out’?
It all came together for me when I heard a young woman from India speak about a woman’s voice. She noted how some women, particularly in advanced age, speak inappropriately or corrosively to others. Or, ramble on just to hear themselves speak, trapping their unwitting conversation partner in an avalanche of words without allowing any response or feedback. To just hear themselves speak! We all encountered someone who buries others and blurts out every random thought that crosses their mind, literally draining you of energy.
I was intrigued as this speaker explained that so often a woman’s voice has been silenced throughout her life, in society, her family, career. When a woman’s voice is plugged up throughout her life, the body inevitably speaks later on in life and the person can almost not help but let her voice bubble to the surface in any way it can. Like a spring that’s been stopped up and now gushes forth. It’s all part of healing her voice.
Even in Western societies, women’s voices are supposed to be soft and dismissive. Even in the age of the #METoo movement women’s voices are reprimanded for speaking up. Just this week a male political commentator attacked Ana Navarro, CNN contributor, and shouted her down for her supposed her ‘shrill’ voice and to shut up already! An attack on her feminine voice all because she dared publicly to express a differing political opinion than his. No male voice would be accused of being shrill or loud.A male voice would be applauded for being assertive and authoritative. But oh yes, this attack on a woman’s voice happens all the time, in public, and in plain sight!
How often have you been in a meeting and either not spoken up because you feared your voice and what you had to say would be ridiculed or dismissed? How often have you spoken up in a soft voice and no one paid attention to your idea and then a male colleague brazenly stole your idea but he now spoke it with a loud assertive voice and everyone praised ‘his’ great idea, though when you had said it first, no one listened? And even if you had spoken with a loud and assertive voice, no one would have listened and just dismissed your voice as too ‘shrill’?! Like it happened to the powerful and assertive Ana Navarro, on national tv, this week!
When I work with a client I let her voice emerge. And no, I don’t mean in the quiet writing or solitary journal-keeping voice. Women’s voices needs expression, in physical sound waves, call it the voice chakra energy if you like.
I invite you to hear yourself speak and speak your truth aloud. Refuse to be silenced or to speak someone else’s truth or worse their lies.
Since the #MeToo movement women speak up in society. But we need more. We need our individual truth spoken in a safe place. And it goes far beyond sexual harassment. It’s about the rape of our voice.
1. We need to hear our own voice.
Let your voice be heard, just by yourself. Sing, hum, shout to just free that stuck energy that most women have learned to routinely suppress.
Speak into a recorder either a stream of thoughts or on a particular topic. Listen to yourself at least twice. Without judgement. Just be there for yourself and listen.
Write about what you hear yourself say if you feel like. Better yet, record your thoughts on what your voice told you when you let it speak freely.
2. We need our voice to be heard by others.
Group programs can be valuable primarily because we hear ourselves speak in the presence of others.
Have you ever choked up and become emotional only in the very act of speaking? As we speak to another person, emotions well up we didn’t know we had! Plus our voice carries emotional nuances we could never convey in just words.
If possible, be part of a group where it’s safe to speak. If a group leader cuts you down verbally, or makes you wrong, it’s a sure bet to find a safer place elsewhere. More likely than not, a group leader who cuts you down for speaking your truth or interrupts your voice and makes you wrong for what you just said, has issues with her own voice. So find a place where your voice is sacred. Because it is. It is a link to your deeper, divinely-connected self. Honor it as such.
Your voice will lead you out of darkness. Just like in the classic Michael Jackson video ‘Billie Jean’ where he steps into the dark and with each steps forward the next step lights up to guide his way along the path.
Sure there is value in meditating, journaling, moving your body, or just following your inner wisdom… but none of these worked for me as long as my voice was buried and unhealed.
I believe we all have our own story of moments when our voice has been stopped, silenced and plugged up. What moments come up for you? What is your #MeTooVoice story?
And how do you give your voice free reign, defy those who silence you and restore the power of your own divine, rightful voice?