Alison Znamierowski of the beautiful blog No Waste Space shares an essay with us that will help you learn to value your voice. Gorgeous, insightful, and sure to inspire you. Happy reading, everyone. This girl's a gem.
“The ability to tell your own story, in words or images,
is already a victory, already a revolt.”
– Rebecca Solnit, “Men Explain Things to Me”
For a while now, I’ve had the urge to write, but as soon as I begin typing, doubt floods and overwhelms my mind: “why is this important? Who would ever read this? Why would it matter? This is stupid.” And with those thoughts, I (mindlessly) discredit and demean my own ideas, thoughts, and opinions. I am a strong advocate for female empowerment, and was genuinely shocked when I realized how this pattern of thought had so insidiously undermined and limited my ability to claim my own voice, to recognize it as important and deserving of space.
After this realization, I went on to have a mini-series of (somehow simultaneously both shocking and obvious) epiphanies about my discomfort with my own voice: this is why I don’t like doing interviews. This is why I don’t like talking to strangers. This is why I’m so uncomfortable writing Twitter updates or Facebook statuses without including a link or someone else’s words (did I not start this very article with a quotation?!)
I have spent my whole life only valuing my voice when it was in relation to someone else. Only when it was meant for healing, for connecting, or for seeking validation. I have spent my whole life devaluing my voice in relation to someone else. They know more, they know better, they deserve to speak more than I do. Since I can remember, I only raised my hand to answer the teacher’s question if it was clear that no one else was. Even when I knew I was correct, I would still ask my answer: “Does X = 9?”
I remember carefully crafting the words in my head or even in my notebook before raising my hand, painfully aware of the paralyzing effect of fear on my ability to improvise. I didn’t want to stutter. I didn’t want to be wrong. I wanted to be perfect. Fear was choking out my adversary, imperfection, but I was left voiceless in the middle.
Society creates such a restricted space for women; it teaches men to shout their opinions, to cut each other’s sentences off in order to be heard, to demand space in a room. It teaches women to speak more quietly, more intentionally, to think before responding. To be honest, I prefer the latter – I never feel fully relaxed when I’m amongst a group of men. Everyone seems to be on the edge of their seats, bodies tense with fervor and ego; it always feels like a fight. Sometimes, I will try to speak in a male-dominated space, and my sentence will get cut off multiple times before I decide to become silent – it feels better than letting other people silence me. I keep my words to myself where they feel safe and unbroken, but I then become invisible.
It’s not easy to be a woman who shamelessly voices her truth and values her own voice. In many ways, it is exactly what we are taught not to do. But I am sick of being silenced. I am sick of feeling like my words are not worth the character count on my own computer screen. I am ready to want for myself what I want for all women; to speak fearlessly and unapologetically.