It always starts with you

First published Thrive Global 16 February 2021

I work with many women who struggle with speaking up and speaking their truth, and when they do start to speak up often, it is with hesitation and trepidation. And why do they find it so hard to speak up? Part of it is the experience of not being heard.

I don’t say the experience of being heard lightly.

I see their struggle first hand, and it can be debilitating and certainly career limiting. If you can’t put forward your ideas you will be continued overlooked. Now, that’s both career-limiting and soul-destroying in one.

They might be the only woman in a male-dominated management team, or they have someone above them who is actively getting in the way of their career advancement. I freely admit this isn’t something women only experience, it can and does happen to men; it’s just that it happens far less.

It’s uncomfortable to speak up if you aren’t used to doing so, especially if you are used to being shut down. When it happens often enough, we modify our approach. Sometimes that works for us, and sometimes it doesn’t.


Listening and speaking go hand in hand

Often we don’t speak up because we aren’t being listened to by those around us. So, some of us will raise our voices, as if volume is the answer! Sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Often, when we raise our voices to be heard, we send another message entirely, and the timider around us react by shutting down and maybe contribute less.

We just stop talking, we stop offering our ideas, and we start to censor ourselves. The thoughts that run through our mind are they won’t listen in any case, or if I speak up, they won’t hear what I mean, or worse someone else will raise the same point and what do you know that will fly. We say to ourselves why bother; they won’t hear me and

We shut ourselves down before someone else has a chance to.

Has it ever occurred to you that if you want to be listened to, the first person whom you need to listen to is yourself? The first person to address in this equation is YOU and more importantly, your relationship to yourself and what it means to speak up and be heard.

If you don’t think you are worth listening to and have something to contribute, no one else is going to… Funny how that works.

Speak up even if your voice shakes! We have that beautiful quote and piece of advice from the late Justice Joan Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who did a lot to advance the cause of women everywhere. I’m sure she knew this one first hand.

Did she allow it to stop her?

Clearly not. Will you let it stop you? Or, will you speak-up and continue to speak even though your voice shakes and you lack confidence?

It probably will shake at first and with time and practice your truth will speak, and your voice will steady, and you’ll communicate with authority.

You just need to give yourself permission to take the first step.

Come on. I dare you.

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