I’ve been thinking a lot about how I use my voice, when I use it and whether I use it enough to speak up for myself and others. How can I ensure my voice is heard when it is often much softer than the ones I hear around me.
Yesterday, I needed help in order to offer support to a group of students. Without getting too much into the details, these students are dealing with tremendous grief and fear following the recent earthquake in Syria and Turkey. As much as I want to support them, I am limited in the kind of help I can offer, so I reached out for support. Initially, I was told there weren’t any supports that could help. And at one time, I would have accepted it – I wouldn’t have liked it, but I would have accepted what I was being told. Today, however, I remembered that it isn’t always the loudest voice that is heard, and when we know we need to speak up, and then persist, we can get what we need.
When we consider the idea of making our voices heard, we often think of speaking out against injustice, oppression, or fighting for our beliefs. I can do that. That kind of speaking up comes easily to me. However, sometimes we need to speak up for a different reason: when we need help. I struggle with asking for help, as anyone who knows me well will tell you. I am not sure if I just don’t want to burden others or if I don’t believe I will get the help I need, or if past experiences have made me less trusting. Whatever the reason, it is hard. Whether it’s getting help completing a project or asking someone to support me as I take on a challenge, asking for help is something I am working on getting better at.
Unfortunately, there have been times when my call for help has gone unanswered or I have been dismissed and made to feel ashamed for not being strong enough to do things on my own. These kinds of experiences can leave us feeling helpless, frustrated, and even more vulnerable. In these situations, I am not always sure how to proceed. Should I get louder and more insistent? Or should I allow my vulnerability to become the strength I need to stand up for myself and stand with others? They say the squeaky wheel gets the grease, but what about the most persistent?
The truth is, I have learned, there’s no one right answer to this question. However, there are some things I have been practicing along with centring myself and connecting with the inner voice I know that is courageous, compassionate and clear, that help me take the step to keep asking to be heard. I have had opportunities to practice when I have failed. I have had opportunities to practice where I simply gave up trying. And then there was yesterday’s experience where I learned that sometimes we just have to keep trying and we can get more than we need.
Knowing our worth and owning our story.
When we’re feeling vulnerable, it’s easy to question our own worth and value. But it’s important to remember that everyone has inherent worth and value, simply because they exist. By owning our story and recognizing our worth, we give ourself the power to speak up and advocate for ourself.
I recently went through a very unsettling and painful medical procedure where I felt I was not heard and my concerns were dismissed. I didn’t speak up because the doctor told me it was necessary and that most people do find the procedure to be painful, but not unbearable. I, however, found it to be invasive, terribly painful and when I initially asked them to stop so I could regroup, they did not, telling me it is better to just get it over with.
I didn’t feel I had the power to ask (or tell) them again. So I simply suffered through it.
Today, however, I remembered that every one of the people I serve who is suffering right now deserves to have their needs met. And I, as a person who can help, deserve to have my call for help recognized. So I persisted. And people surprised me with their generosity of time, empathy and knowledge.
Identifying our needs and what we want to achieve.
Before we can make our voice heard, we need to know what we’re fighting for. We can take a moment to identify our needs and what we hope to achieve.
Before reaching out, I knew exactly what I needed to support the staff and students. I was able to clearly request specific supports rather than just a generic “I need help.” Sometimes, however, “I need help” is all we know, and we can still know that we can ask for help and find someone to walk with us to figure out what that help is.
Find allies and support.
Speaking up can be intimidating, especially when we’re approaching people with more power than we have, and especially when we have had a negative experience in the past. But it’s important to remember that we don’t have to go it alone. Today I found colleagues, leaders, professional partners, friends and strangers who could offer support and encouragement. I found support I never thought I would have, and many people rallied to help me find the resources I needed to share. Having a supportive network can make all the difference when it comes to making your voice heard.
Advocating for ourself and making our voice heard can be draining and stressful. It’s important to prioritize self-care and take time for yourself to recharge. This could include activities like exercise, meditation, or spending time with loved ones.
One of my favourite ways to care for myself is to write. It helps me process all the thoughts in my brain. Sometimes I share those thoughts with you in the form of this blog. Other times I journal or write poetry that will never be seen by anyone…ever.
Self-care is so important as we work to become more assertive and to overcome our anxieties about asking for what we need. If you are interested in reading more about self-care and how it is not selfish, take a look at my recent blog post Self-Care is Not Selfish .
Unfortunately, speaking up once may not be enough to get the help we need. If your call for help goes unanswered, it’s important to be persistent. Keep trying different approaches or approaching different people until you find what works. Remember, you deserve to have your needs met, and it’s okay to keep asking until they are.
Allow vulnerability to be your strength.
Vulnerability can be scary, but it’s also incredibly powerful. I used to think that showing any vulnerability would be perceived as weakness and I would be taken advantage of. However, I now know that by allowing myself to be vulnerable, I am giving others the opportunity to see me as a whole person, with my own struggles, fears, and desires. These qualities are not in conflict with the other parts of me – strong, capable, valued, fierce. Showing both sides of myself can help build empathy and understanding, making it easier for others to respond to my needs.
Asking for help and making our voice heard can be a challenging task, especially if we have been met with resistance or hostility in the past for asking. However, by embracing our worth, expressing our needs clearly, seeking support from loved ones and allies, prioritizing self-care, being persistent, and using vulnerability as a tool for empathy and understanding, we can increase the chances of our needs being met.
Today I learned a valuable lesson. Don’t give up just because someone says they can’t help. Find people who can. We deserve to advocate for ourselves and we feel so much stronger when we do. None of us can do life alone. It is still hard for me to ask for help, so if I ask you, know that I do not do so lightly. And if you need help, please don’t be afraid to ask me. If I am not able to help directly, I will certainly do what I can to point you in the right direction or find someone who can help.
To those who took time to help me find the supports I needed today, thank you. You not only helped the ones I am trying to support, but you reminded me of the importance of reaching out and allowing my authentic voice to be heard.
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