How to Start Speaking Up: Find Your Voice and Be Heard

Relaxation

“Your voice is the most potent magic in existence.” ~Michael Bassey Johnson

In a noisy, crowded world, in a culture that promotes service to others and putting others’ needs before our own, how do we find the courage to share our own voice?

I’ll admit, I’m still navigating this journey. There are times when a writer can write from a place of knowing. A place where they feel like they have something figured out and want to share it with the world. This is not one of those times.

This is a sharing of information from a place where I am still figuring it out. What I do know is that this is an important topic, and I don’t want to shy away from it just because I don’t have it all figured out.

Despite the guilt, selfishness, and fear of disharmony speaking out may cause, the fact is that getting our needs met is fundamental to our well-being, and we can’t get them met without using our voice.

The Quiet One

“It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.” ~Madeleine K. Albright

Growing up, I was often the quiet one, content to let others speak for me. My mom likes to tell a story of when I was little and my brother would act as my voice, asking for what I (supposedly) wanted or needed, which more often than not was a cookie or some sort of sweet. I’m not sure if I did actually want the cookie or if he did (it was probably both), but nevertheless, he would be my voice.

As I moved into my teen years, I recall that expressing my desires was sometimes met with skepticism and criticism. My dreams of playing softball were at times dismissed, reinforcing the notion that my aspirations were inconsequential.

While people were well-intentioned and coming from a place of care for my future, my teenage brain heard that what I wanted didn’t matter and that I should question my wants and needs (especially when, years later, my softball dreams ended up fizzling out).

These experiences instilled a belief that questioning my own desires was necessary, and self-expression came with the risk of rejection. It’s a mindset I’m still working to overcome. 

Why Speaking Up Is Essential

“Self-actualization is realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences. It is a desire to become everything one is capable of becoming.” ~Abraham Maslow

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, physiological and safety needs come first, followed by psychological needs. This includes intimate relationships, friendships, and esteem needs (esteem for oneself and the desire for reputation or respect from others).

As we get these needs met, we keep moving up the pyramid toward what is known as self-actualization, or becoming who we are meant to become. However, one of the big stumbling blocks in our relationships and in getting our esteem needs met is our hesitancy to use our voice to express what we truly need or want.

We hold back. We justify all the reasons why we should not speak up. We feel guilty or selfish. We want to maintain harmony. We don’t think we’re deserving of it. Or we expect others to know what we need and for them to just give it to us. This can lead to exhaustion, resentment, and unhappiness.

Most of us feel comfortable expressing our needs when it comes to our physical health—I need food, sleep, a walk outside. However, expressing our emotional and spiritual needs feels vulnerable. What if the person in front of us says no, laughs, or dismisses us in any other way?

The struggle and complexity of this is real, and it goes deep. But, on the other hand, how else can you make your needs and wants known? How else can you truly show up as your most authentic self?

As the author Edith Layton said, “No one else in the wide world, since the dawn of time, has ever seen the world as you do, or can explain it as you can. This is what you have to offer that no one else can.”

How To Find Your Voice

“Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind—even if your voice shakes.” ~Maggie Kuhn

Maslow outlined several behaviors that lead to self-actualization. Two of these behaviors include listening to your own feelings in evaluating experiences instead of the voice of tradition, authority, or the majority; and being prepared to be unpopular if your views do not coincide with those of the majority.

Taking this into account, I have outlined four steps below that I feel are important in finding our voice.

Step 1: Get clear on what you want and need.

You can do this through meditation, contemplation, journaling, and pausing each day to ask yourself: What do I need right now—physically, mentally, and/or emotionally? Check in with yourself without judging yourself, knowing that whatever you need is valid. This will help get you in touch with your needs and access that wisdom on a regular basis. 

Step 2: Reflect on where in your life you can start asking for what you need.

This might mean asking for assistance when getting the kids ready for school, asking for more focus time at work, or asking a friend for help. Think of one small thing and start asking for it on a regular basis.

Step 3: Question what holds you back from asking for what you need.

Reflect on childhood or adult experiences where you didn’t think your voice was heard or acknowledged, and how that impacts your voice now. I know feeling ignored is a huge trigger for me, but I’m starting to learn how triggers point to those places within us that still need healing. Take that information and use it to grow.

Step 4: Practice.

Sometimes people will comply with our requests, but sometimes they won’t. Sometimes people will agree with our opinions, and sometimes they won’t. Understand that people don’t have to give you anything and learn how to be okay with that. Ask for what you need, but don’t expect anything. Create a self-love practice that you can fall back on so that, no matter what, you can support yourself.

And if someone regularly deprioritizes and disregards your needs, consider whether it’s in your best interest to maintain a relationship with them. Although no one has to give you anything, people who truly care will want to step up when they can. 

Let Your Truth Be Heard

“Find your voice and inspire others to find theirs.” ~Stephen Covey

In a world where the volume of voices can drown out our own, finding the courage to speak our truth is a revolutionary act. Each of us holds within us a unique perspective, a story waiting to be told. Embracing our voice is not just an act of self-expression; it’s a declaration of our worthiness, our authenticity, and our right to be heard.

As you navigate your own journey toward self-expression, remember that your voice matters. Your thoughts, your feelings, your desires—they are valid and deserving of acknowledgment. So dare to speak up, even when your voice shakes. Dare to share your truth, for it is in the sharing that we find connection, understanding, and growth.

Let your truth be heard. Let your voice resonate with the world. For in doing so, you not only honor your own journey but also inspire others to find the courage to do the same.

About Brooke Boser

Brooke Boser is a certified life & wellness coach who guides individuals to embrace authenticity and pursue their best life. She writes about authentic living, loving ourselves, and finding our higher purpose. You can follow Brooke on Substack or sign up for her newsletter at thecoachb.substack.com. You can also follow her on Instagram or LinkedIn.

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