Finding your voice

When I was younger, I was often told I’m too loud – vocal, expressive, not afraid to say what I think, stand behind my words. Speak up. Sometimes that was a compliment, not being afraid to speak up. Many times it was not. I’ve learned one of my toxic traits (oh, how fancy that sounds!) is feeling guilty. So yes, I felt guilty for “being loud”. For expressing myself. For talking to people. For laughing loud. For yelling. For speaking…

I tried to learn to keep my mouth shut. Ah. Never learned that too well…

When I lost my voice, I wondered… I wondered if it was because I spoke too much. That didn’t last long. More and more I wondered if I lost it because my voice, my words, my thoughts didn’t matter at all. Because now I was (often, in my opinion, of course) silenced. Interrupted. In the beginning, it didn’t bother me much. It was very hard to speak. So when I didn’t have to, I was relieved. But that relief was short, because even when I did want to speak, I didn’t have the opportunity. I was cut short, shut up. People around me tried to speak instead of me – yes, I understood they wanted to help, but even when I told them I want them to wait for me to say what I want to say (and not what they assumed I wanted to say), they just got used to interrupting me.

The more that bothered me, the more I wondered… Was me losing my voice a sign that I don’t need it? That it doesn’t matter what, or even if, I speak at all? That I should just shut up?

It’s never simple, is it. When we start wondering about ourselves, our lives, the lessons we learn and those we don’t, things that happen, the meaning, or the lack of it… For me that usually ends in being torn between blaming myself and being angry. Is it the punishment I should accept? Or is it something I should fight? Do I have to stay quiet, or demand to be heard?

I might be one of those that lost (part) of their voice. But I’m surely not the only that wants to be heard and at some point (or points…) was not.

It was just lately that I started realizing, really understanding, not just knowing, that being listened to is not just about being allowed to voice your opinion. It’s about being allowed to be. To express. To be a being that is living, thinking, feeling, and expressing that experience. That being listened to when you have something to say means that not only your words matter, but YOU as a person matter.

I was told “stop”. And I reacted with my whole being. Because not long before that I was asked a question and then quieted after a word. Suddenly I felt as if my existence is in a way “disqualified” just because I was silenced. Even if I’ve known it, I never really understood how significant it is if I am silenced. Or if I am not silenced, but my words have no effect. All those moments when what I said, made clear, didn’t make any difference, didn’t have any effect, was not respected.

It all came to one clear thought: If my words don’t matter, I don’t matter.

And I have to matter, firstly to myself. Can I make others listen to me? No. Can I make them hear me? No. Can I force anyone to consider, appreciate, take into account what I said? No, of course not.

What I can do is know that if I matter, I will be listened to. I will be heard. Even if my voice is not loud. Even If I speak slowly. Even if I forget words and sometimes take a lot of time to remember them. Even if I have to take breaths between sentences (or in the middle of one). Even if I repeat things or get lost in the story.

And I can respect myself enough to know that if someone shows me my words don’t matter, then I don’t matter either. I deserve to matter. I deserve to speak, write, express myself. Nobody has to listen to me – but if someone appreciates me, they will appreciate what I want to tell them. I have to appreciate myself enough to acknowledge and appreciate people who listen. And not waste breath for those who don’t.

Alenka H., 2022

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