As I’m launching my next tele-class, Finding Your Voice, I’ve been reminded of all the ways women end up silencing themselves, playing small in their lives and even losing themselves in relationships. What’s interesting about the dynamic of losing your voice is that it’s often a subtle process.
Initially, many women do speak up for what they want. They ask their husbands to talk more, they try to set limits with people who don’t treat them well and they often ask for support around their dreams. The trouble begins to happen though, when they are met with a “no.” If this “no” is said with intensity or judgment, women’s loss of voice speeds up even faster.
When women speak up about what they want and are met with anger (“What the hell do you want from me?!”), dismissiveness (“That’s ridiculous. You’re too sensitive!”) or called out as being selfish/mean/a “bitch,” the women tend to shut down. In fact, some women will even go on to revoke their request. Some women, in an effort to calm the other person down, will even go so far as to agree with the person by saying that, yes, they are too sensitive or the upset is their own fault. It’s a crazy phenomenon we do to avoid upsetting others.
Women are taught to be nice. They want to be liked whenever possible and they’d prefer not to have people upset with them for any reason. Although, it’s not all women, there is a strong societal pressure for most women to be pulled into this type of thinking. Not surprisingly, this pulls many women into the habit of putting the needs and happiness of others above their own. Subsequently, women learn to ask for little, disagree little and say little. If they’re in a meeting at work and they disagree with what colleagues say, many will nod their head in agreement while internally shaking their head in disagreement. If their partner at home is speaking harshly, they excuse the harshness due to a hard day, stress at work or any of a number of excuses. When this partner yells at the children, too many women go to the children to explain why dad was upset and implore them to not take his anger personally. They do this rather than holding their husbands accountable to speak more softly to their offspring.
Time and time again women silence their voices and, in so doing, they gradually lose themselves. They learn to laugh a little softer, ask for a little less, share opinions only when they’re similar to those around them and accept more than they ever thought they would…all under the guise of being relational.
It’s not relational to silence your voice. It’s not “nice” to lie to a loved one because you don’t want to upset them with the truth. It’s not compassionate to a child to rationalize the anger of their parent. And it’s not helpful to anyone to put the need to be liked above the need to be treated well.
Find your voice. Ask for what you want to ask for. Say what you truly think. Share your honest opinions, ideas and dreams. Speak up to injustices—toward you and toward others. Own your place in this world.
Challenge: For one week, pay attention to all the things you don’t say and why. After you become more conscious of how you silence, during week two, begin to speak up beginning in the areas with the lowest risk.
Note: If you struggle with Finding Your Voice, read more about my tele-class here and sign up to work this skill. http://lmerlobooth.typepad.com/straighttalk/finding-your-voice.html