I’m writing this post for myself as this is something that has been very much on my mind since the weekend. As you will know, if you are keeping up with my blog, I’ve just been to the first workshop for my counselling course. It is a unique course (so I’m told) as there is just a smattering of theory with lots of hands on practice with our own very real issues. It’s a small group made up of returning students and new ones and almost immediately we had the opportunity to share what we were thinking and feeling with the group.
Very soon I felt like I had things I could add, but I held back as the returning students weren’t saying much. Eventually one of the other new students was irritating me so much that I couldn’t help but say, “I am feeling very irritated by you.” It felt wrong to speak this out, but if my intuition was right I was not the only one feeling that way. I was able to ask this student, “Why are you here?” In the answer that came I actually felt that I could relate a bit to where they were coming from and I felt my irritation fall away.
I continued to speak up in the group through the course of the day. I would have an urge to speak and would do so, but once I had I began to judge myself quite harshly. “Perhaps you shouldn’t have said that!” “Everyone’s quiet, what are they thinking about you?” I even spoke up at the end of the day and said how judgmental I was being about myself. I headed home, excited about the day I’d had and the people I was getting to know, but still unsure if I should have been speaking up or not. What were people thinking about me?
The next day I felt even more nervous as I walked up the hill from the train station. I found myself talking under my breath to myself, encouraging myself that it was going to be okay. I found I had more courage to speak up in the group and less judgment for myself afterwards. I started to see the effect my words were having on those around me as well. The returning students began to add their voices. As more began sharing about things that were issues for them I felt more and more connected and empathetic towards them. I could relate, I could understand. I had been there.
It came home to me again how we are all walking wounded. We all have stories we were born into that we are still trying to figure out today, well into our adult lives. None of us have escaped suffering and pain. In the normal world we are taught to put on masks, pretend, strive to be “perfect”. In that room on my course we were given the space to be who we are, without judgement. As I spoke up past my insecurities I began to realize that I do have a lot to offer others. I began to see the value in the unique contributions I can bring.
And that is the wonderful thing: we all have unique contributions to make to the world and to those around us. No one else has experienced what you have. You are one of a kind and so am I. The world needs to hear what we have to say.
I was so encouraged to read Elizabeth Gilbert’s update this morning. It was spot on for me today.
By the third day of my course I felt like I was in my element. I was listening more, holding myself back a bit to make room for others to speak, but I was also more confident that when I spoke it was okay for me to do so. I began to see that I was playing an important part in the whole. I was finding my voice, and I was seeing “magic” happen as I did.
That doesn’t mean that I have been without fear since. I’ve felt desperate for feedback that what I contributed was okay. I’m working on that with my therapist and already know that I’m going to have to bring those insecurities up in the group next time. Eek! But I am encouraged too, as I know that as I feel the fear and do it anyway I am going to grow, I’m going to encourage others to risk being vulnerable too, and I’m going to learn even more about myself and what my unique voice looks like. Hooray for growth, even when it’s scary!
Here are a few related quotes that have encouraged me:
We’re always being told find your voice. When I was younger, I never really knew what this meant. I used to worry a lot about voice, wondering if I had my own. But now I realize that the only way to find your voice is to use it. It’s hardwired, built into you. If you want people to know about what you do and the things you care about, you have to share. Talk about the things you love. Your voice will follow. Austin Kleon
In life, finding a voice is speaking and living the truth. Each of you is an original. Each of you has a distinctive voice. When you find it, your story will be told. You will be heard. John Grisham
Listen to your voice. No one else can hear it. Tell your story. No one else can speak it. Run after your passion. No one else can catch it. Being true to the person you were created to be is the best gift you can give yourself, your family and the world. Joel Boggess
It’s not about finding your voice, it’s about giving yourself permission to use your voice. Kris Carr
If you feel that you are not strong enough to let your creative voice become heard, start with a whisper, your voice will come. Unknown
Are you using your voice? I’m looking forward to hearing it!