Warning: F-bombs ahead.
It was never that I didn’t know how to speak.
It was that I didn’t know how to listen to myself.
I didn’t know what I wanted to say, what my opinions were, or how I felt about anything. I had become lost at such a core level that I had no fucking idea who I was.
I was scared that if I looked too deeply inside, I would find something repulsive, ugly and disgusting.
I was scared to be vulnerable, with others, but especially with myself.
Because these fears were so intense, they took on a life of their own. I would intentionally avert my gaze away from myself, and desperately look to others instead. I would try to ascertain who people wanted me to be, and then I’d be that.
I was a chameleon, a shape-shifter, completely at the mercy of other people. Forever changing, based on who I was with.
I had nothing of my own: no power, no sense of self.
At the time, however, I thought operating in this way was much easier than looking into myself. But, look away from yourself for long enough, and you’ll feel fraudulent at a very deep level. I didn’t know it yet, but I was losing myself more and more each day.
Friends, therapists, and lovers would always tell me I needed to speak up. I got so fucking sick of hearing this.
But, I wouldn’t. I couldn’t. Even when I was mad, burning with rage, or extremely upset, I’d keep it inside. I didn’t want to tell anyone. I would literally feel my throat close up. My mouth wouldn’t move. The emotions would swirl sickeningly inside, left unexpressed yet again.
I didn’t know what to say.
I did not yet know that learning to speak up was mainly about getting very, very quiet.
I needed to get quiet enough to dive deeply, but gently inside of myself.
I took the leap.
At first, my voice was so obscured and tangled with other people’s voices. It was very, very small. I could only hear a faint whisper in the beginning.
Little by little, I was able to hear myself amongst the wreckage of my many false identities. I could fully feel and understand the grief of operating in this way for so long. I could actually sense something that felt like me.
How could I possibly speak up when I couldn’t even hear myself?
I couldn’t. I had to first learn to listen to myself.
I nurtured this tiny, delicate voice for a long time. I asked it questions. Listened to it fully. I nurtured it and cared for it daily. I surrounded myself with gentle, supportive people. Very slowly, it got louder. I got louder. This voice started to guide me and tell me things.
But, only when I listened. I had to make an effort to hear me.
Listening fully to our inner voice can be a beautiful act of self-respect.
For me, it was the first act of self-respect that I had ever truly given to myself.
Soon, my voice became loud. I could feel it boom from deep inside. It had a force, an intense vibration. It started leaping out of my throat. When asked if I was okay, I would try to say yes. Old habits die hard.
But, my real voice would jump up and say “No. I am not fucking alright.”
It startled me in the beginning. It was such a change to how I had been living. I was so used to suppression, repression, and falsity.
I was finally able to do seemingly simple things, like tell someone that I didn’t want to hang out. Ask questions at a restaurant. Tell someone that I was upset with them. Tell an employer about problems at work. I felt so empowered!
My voice was finally free.
After being shackled for so long, she loves to roar now. She screams out in happiness, laughs loudly (and genuinely), yells when angry, and squeals in delight.
Our voices are beautiful, but we must not forsake them.
We must nurture them daily so we can listen carefully to the wisdom, beauty, and guidance that our voices can offer.
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Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Travis Isaacs/Flickr