Using My Voice


I wrote a post today that was all wrong. It was disjointed and confused and I think the reason is that I was trying to turn it into something it wasn’t. I’ve noticed that is often the case.

Here’s the thing. I am worried that I don’t use my voice. I am worried about my fear and passivity, about my inclination to be quiet and not push back. I think this is something that was trained into me, by my upbringing, by culture, by all sorts of things. Possibly some of it is just personality. I’m a people pleaser by nature and I always have been.

I am not a quiet person, I talk constantly. I have ideas and opinions about most things and I don’t think I come across as a passive person generally. But I am afraid of frustrating people, I’m barely learning how to deal with conflict. I hear things at work all the time that are sexist or racist or other kinds of discriminatory and they are often said by people that I really dolike in general and I do not know how to say something without alienating them or just making them annoyed with me. I feel like what is the point? If I make them annoyed, they won’t rethink anything and I will have accomplished nothing. But I don’t feel good about it. I don’t know if I’m making excuses for being afraid.

I’m learning to say no. There was a time that was not so very long ago when I didn’t know how to tell someone I didn’t want to have sex with them or when I felt like once certain things had been put into play, I was absolutely obligated. I am learning that’s not true, I’m learning to say how I feel. I’m slowly learning to talk in safe places and explain how I feel. But it is slow and it is hard and I am worried that I use caution as an excuse for silence.

I was in my last class on Monday and my teacher had us go around the room to talk about our practicum, talk about what we would remember, what had stuck out to us. The vast majority of the women in my class said directly or implied how they were realizing they had value in their jobs, how for the first time they felt like their voice could be heard and it mattered. (For whatever it’s worth, none of the men mentioned this.) I’m not sure if I’m there.

I’ve done well in my practicum. I have become an okay advocate, I think. I’ve learned a lot. There have definitely been moments where I’ve realized that I can do this and maybe even do it well. Those were good days. But still, when my supervisor said how much they’d valued me at my site visit, I was surprised. I am not to the point of feeling like I’ve come far enough, like I am doing enough, like my voice is meaningful here. I don’t know if that’s because I haven’t reached high enough or because my feeling of never being enough just runs extremely deep. In other words, I’m not sure if I need to challenge myself more or if I need to learn to appreciate more of where I’m at. Maybe it’s some weird combination of the two.

I don’t know if I say enough or fight hard enough. I don’t know if I’m making excuses sometimes because I’m afraid. I know I don’t want to be passive, I want to be a participant in what happens around me. But how do you know when you’re doing enough? How do you know when being quiet is actually the right thing to do? I haven’t figured out the lesson yet. I don’t actually know the answer. Being brave is a confusing series of steps.

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