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Finding Your Voice

My client was very timid. For the longest time, she wouldn’t look me in the eye and her voice lacked emotion. Most of her conversation was made up of questions instead of statements, and even then, for every question she asked, she immediately apologized. Later, I heard about the past abuse in her life. She said that she was “fed up being a doormat”. She wanted to change and get more out of life. She had learned early on that the only way to survive in her family was to be passive. Any other way was seen as a “smart mouth” and punishable. She grew up without a voice, taking her lead from others. Being reactive didn’t get her what she wanted, but she didn’t want a backhand either. She came to understand that having a voice, that speaking your mind, speaking up, being proactive in your life, all had a dark side. Now that she had entered her middle years, she realized that she wanted more from life and that she: Could not be proactive unless she had a voice! “If I speak up, it will only make things worse.” In the context of her original family, she was probably correct and so didn’t learn to speak up. She became timid and shy and withdrew from social contact. She learned to be passive early in her life and was now paying the price. She didn’t have a voice, and at the same time was battling the belief that if she found a voice it could make her life worse. Compounding her fears was her understanding of what having a voice meant. To her, it meant being aggressive with a “take no prisoners” mentality. She was relieved to hear that having a voice could mean being assertive, and that assertiveness meant respecting and listening to the other person’s point of view. And that meant having them listen to and respect your perspective as well. She smiled when I put it this way: A voice is a voice, not a fist! I warned her that not everyone in her life would appreciate her quest to find her voice. “Sometimes even the people who love you the most will not be thrilled when you say no or express an opinion that is different from theirs. And it is important to consider that if this is the way that those who love you react, then imagine how the people who don’t love you will feel? People often want us to remain predictably the same. Unfortunately for you, that means remaining without a voice. You must realize that this way they will have more control over their lives and over yours as well.” If one is to become assertive and proactive in the world, One needs to find their voice.