In therapy, many of the brave and strong individuals I work with come to me to find their voice (although they may not describe it like that when they first contact me). Usually individuals recognize they aren't leading an authentic life and want to find ways to be more true to themselves.
Whether their voice was muffled due to experiences of abuse, through depression or grief, or fears of getting close to others, sometimes it’s hard for people to be genuine with their needs and be assertive in getting their needs met.
It seems like the people in this world that have the loudest voices are always getting their needs met… so here’s a few tips for the rest of us, with quiet voices, to speak up for what we need and want. We deserve our space in this world, too!
Two steps to getting aware… first identify what you really need and want. I find many people struggle with this, especially if you’ve experienced abuse, neglect or childhood adversity. When you’re raised with a ‘people pleasing’ mindset, it’s difficult to identify what you really want. However, I’m giving you permission to spend some time figuring it out! Pay attention to yourself at various times throughout the day and in various situations; dig into what you need in that moment.
Second is getting aware of the times you know what you need but are holding back from saying it. The more you realize the situations where this occurs, the easier it will be to change it. At a minimum, even if you decide that's not the right time/place to speak up for what you need, you will be making a conscious choice about it.
Start with someone safe
Let a trusted and safe loved one know the emotional work you are doing. Start with your partner, a best friend, or close family member and tell them you are working on telling others how you feel and what you need. This way they are prepared and can support you in this journey. It may feel awkward having this conversation, but this is also a big step in finding your voice, being vulnerable and authentic.
Start in situation where there is little risk
It may be easiest to start expressing yourself in situations where is little chance of a negative outcome or backlash. For example, starting with telling your boss what you really think of them is probably not the best place to start… too much risk! However, asking for your coffee drink to be remade if it’s not how you ordered it, or clarifying your order in a restaurant are pretty safe ways to practice.
Practice, practice, practice
This isn’t a skill that can be mastered in all areas of your life by practicing once or twice. (But wouldn’t it be nice if it was like riding a bike, once you learned you could easily do it the rest of your life?!?) This one takes practice and lots of baby steps to get really skillful at it.
Once you feel comfortable identifying what you need, the times you struggle with expressing your needs, and have practiced in low risk situations with safe people, it’s time to step up the practice. Possibly try finding your voice with people you’ve had some strain within the past, or situations where you’ve found yourself withdrawing. As you find it’s getting easier, don’t stop, keep practicing. Keep challenging yourself!
I hope this inspires you to find your voice… however that looks for you. Speak up to others, ask for your needs to be met, stand up for what’s right, and take your space in this world!
Adriana Joyner, LMFT, is a Sacramento area therapist specializing in helping people lead authentic lives. Adriana’s most passionate about supporting individuals exploring their gender and sexuality, and advocating for the LGBTQIA community. Her office is located in Gold River, CA located off Highway 50 at Sunrise Blvd. For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call (916) 547-3997 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This post is dedicated to the amazing individuals I work with who challenge themselves daily to come into their voice… You inspire me!