I love to hear people’s stories. I enjoy discussing and sharing ideas (no small talk, please) and I have always wrestled with a deep-seated, almost painful, need to be heard and understood. To have a voice. But I struggled with speaking up, potentially rocking the boat, learning to speak authentically. It has taken over two decades of work in my marriage, even, to learn and practice vulnerability, to trust that those people who truly love me will not reject me just because we disagree, or argue, or see the world differently.
But finding your voice, and learning to use it for good, is an essential part of growing up and fully becoming who you are meant to be. Without this you are limited in the scope and impact of the work you can do in the world. But even more important, I think, is that when we live in fear of using our voice, of living authentically, of letting people see the real us, part of us shrivels up and dies. We end up hurting ourselves emotionally, spiritually, even physically (I totally believe in the powerful mind-body connection!). When one part of our whole – mind, body, or spirit – hurts or is out of balance, there are ripple effects. Subtle at first, perhaps, but over time very damaging and even devastating.
“The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.” Neil Gaiman
For those who are willing to do the work, this process of becoming can be long and painful. My experience tells me that women tend to come to a crossroads at around 40 years old and the truth is, the results are not always what we would consider lovely or comfortable. At least not at first. Sometimes the result is divorce – some have lived years of woundedness and are done with it. People get hurt. Women finally end soul-sucking careers or friendships.
Sometimes in the process of growth they become a little mean – the intense need to live authentically come hell or high-water isn’t yet balanced with gentleness (being true to ourselves doesn’t require tearing others down). Some spiral through mid-life crisis where everything they thought they knew gets re-evaluated; if they have a strong support system there is a greater chance that they will emerge even more beautiful than before. A little more humble and compassionate probably, but also stronger and more confident of their incredible worth and place in the world.
There are no hacks to short-cut this process of finding your voice or to make it pain-free. But JOY comes in the morning. And growth, resilience, and deep-rooted strength are the fruits of this labor. And if some relationships and opportunities end this simply opens up space for new ones to blossom.
So speak up, even if in small ways at first; baby steps are great. Be honest in your journaling or with your sister or closest girlfriends. Grieve, give yourself permission to cry and acknowledge your pain, get some counselling. Consecrate time to dreaming or visioning who you want to be and what you want your life to look and feel like. And treat yourself with compassion (how would you want your daughter to treat herself?) as you move through the process. But do not give up.
Maybe you need a handful of ideas to help you begin to figure out who you are:
- Determine your personality type
- Figure out what stresses you out and makes you happy with this Happy-Stress Worksheet
- Ponder what you need to let go of to make space for who you want to become with this Just Let It Go worksheet
- Identify the 5 people in your inner circle and get honest about whether or not they support you in becoming the woman you desire to be
- Create a list of Core Desired Feelings to guide your decision making and to remind you of how you choose to be; Danielle Laporte’s website can guide you further in this
I can’t wait to meet you on the other side,