It was one of those mornings. I was meant to wake up, ready to get on the bus and head to my first lecture, but my bed and my apartment were just so damn inviting. So instead I pulled out my phone and scrolled through YouTube and Facebook, curled up in my PJs, rocking my hygge.
On this particular morning, I was enticed by a little video that had the caption, “Warning! Very disturbing images, watch at your own risk.” I scoffed! I was the girl who’d seen a hundred scary movies, blood and guts galore!
I clicked in.
And there was a woman on her knees, surrounded by a crowd. She was dressed all in black, a scarf covering her head, and she was crying and screaming as a man stood above her holding a machete. I’m not sure what kind of injustice she was meant to have done, nor what country she was in. Or anything else really, about the 15-second video. Except for the sound her voice made as she screamed and begged for her life, and then the sound it made, like a low whistle, as her head was cut off.
The Female Voice
Growing up in the world as a female, we are often reminded to shut down our voices:
“You are meant to be seen, not heard.”
“You’re pretty, you don’t have to be smart.” (My personal favourite!)
We are reminded almost daily, through the media, our peers, our teachers, and our parents, that as women our main goal in life is to be pretty and agreeable, to follow the rules, not speak too much, and never, under any circumstances, cry out if we’re being abused.
Well I call bullshit!
Because as it turns out, women DO have voices, and they’re pretty damn amazing. I mean, think of all the women who inspire you in their work: Oprah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nicole Kidman… okay, those are the women who inspire me!
But think about those women! What if they had believed the lie that women are meant to be seen and not heard?
When my parents were beating me, they used to say, “Stop yelling and crying or we’ll keep spanking you!” I had to endure the pain quietly, and not say anything. When they finished, they would say, “OK, go on and play now.” What would really happen was I would go to my room and cry quietly to myself.
Fast forward to university, and I have trouble speaking my mind. I’m much more prone to just be a “good girl” and keep quiet for quiet’s sake. I don’t want to upset anyone too much. In my job, in my classrooms, hanging with my friends, all of these situations I never used my own voice. I had been told that my voice wasn’t valuable. What was more valuable was my ability to fit in, to look a certain way, to just shut up and follow the rules.
And that mentality SHOWED!
I was in a job that I left crying in my car almost every day. I was desperate to fit in, and to find love. And I was ashamed of being who I really was. I even talked in this fake little girly voice!
So, when I arrived in Spain, a country famous for housing some of the world’s most boisterous speakers, I was like a little doll trapped in a plastic box. All wide-eyed and voiceless! Also, I didn’t really speak Spanish, so I could be found nodding politely at loud dinner gatherings, my eyes ping-ponging from one impassioned speaker to the next.
Two years earlier, I was living in Chile. I rode the bus to class every day. One day, I was on the bus minding my own business when I realised that someone behind me was unzipping my backpack and trying to pull out my wallet. I didn’t say anything, just gave him a really dirty look, zipped up my backpack, and sat down far away from him.
Later my boyfriend asked me, “Why didn’t you say anything to him?”
That was a question that would haunt me for years.
Fast-forward again to Spain. I was at a dinner party with a bunch of my fiancé’s friends, and I was getting really annoyed. Because there was this one girl who just wouldn’t SHUT UP. She had an opinion about absolutely everything! There goes Elena again speaking her mind… what a shock. She was intolerable! By the end of the night, my goodbye smile was as fake as the porcelain doll’s I was getting so good at impersonating.
“What an annoying girl!” I complained to my fiancé later. “I am so glad she’s gone.”
But then, in the darkness of the night, tucked into my bed, a little voice spoke up, “I wish I could speak like Elena.”
This woman annoyed me so much, even angered me, because I was still hiding. I was still afraid to use my voice.
Awakening Your Voice
Every person on this planet is unique. Yes, really! I don’t kid, we each have a unique set of values, personality traits, likes, dislikes, zodiac signs, and talents, and all those things equal a life purpose that’s different from everybody else in the world.
You, reading this, have a voice that’s unlike anyone else in this world.
And you owe it to yourself, and to the world, to use that voice. To not push yourself down, quiet yourself, or run away from who you really are. Because you have something that nobody else has: YOUR voice, and you have something important to say with it.
When I was back in the United States, I started singing lessons, but I couldn’t get my voice out of that sweet little girly register. My voice teacher referred me to a therapist. She taught me why my voice was so hard for me to use. What if nobody had told her to use her voice?
So that’s my job today.
My name is Simone, and I’m your virtual guide to letting your voice shine through. If you’ve been thinking about taking voice lessons, or maybe about a time when you should have said something but you didn’t, or you watch injustices in life but don’t do or say anything about them, or if you’re ready to actually become yourself… slough off the crap that others have burdened you with, and free that voice of yours. Deep, high, rough, it doesn’t matter. Other people need to hear your story and hear your voice.
Step 1. Write it out.
Have you got a story that you haven’t told? Something that’s bothered you, or that you’ve brushed off as something that happens to everyone?
Take out your journal. Or if you don’t have a journal, take out a sheet of paper. Sit down and write out your story.
Then share it with someone. Just one person. Or a lot of people if you’re crazy like me. You’d be surprised by what sharing your story does. For example, when I shared the story of being molested with my co-workers, I found out that of the six women I worked with, four of them had lived through similar stories.
Step 2. Listen to other people’s voices speaking authentic truths
The authentic part is a big caveat. Listen to TED talks or bloggers or anyone who is being so honest with their story that it moves you and maybe makes you tear up a little bit. Those stories are not only sad, beautiful and moving. They’re also a catalyst to help move you along the path of creating a stronger voice.
Step 3. Sing
No, you don’t have to be good. And no, you don’t have to sing in front of other people if you don’t want to. But if you’re stuck in traffic, in the shower, or cleaning the house (that’s my favourite), sing. Sing your favourite song, sing like you’ve got nothing to lose, and sing so loud that your neighbours “accidentally” drop eggs at your window.
Step 4. Talk about something you care about
Do you love penguins? Think the penal system is a disgusting joke? Share your voice. I’ll give you some ideas about how you can do this and you go from there, but this step is no longer kid stuff, you’ve got to use your actual voice.
Examples: upload a Facebook video sharing what you care about, find people protesting about something you care about and join in, go to an open mic night and share a poem… the point is to get out there and say something. What you have to say is not stupid or irrelevant or unimportant. On the contrary. It’s do or die.
Step 5. Share your story
Again, we’re talking about your real voice. Tell your story to someone: your sister, mum, therapist, Instagram followers. I don’t know what this step looks like for you, but the important part is that you tell your story. Even if your voice is shaking while you do it. And if you need inspiration, do it for the women who no longer have voices.
Coming into your voice is a process that can be at the same time terrifying, thrilling, divine, and freeing. But it’s a process that you need to do, because I don’t want you living at half-caff anymore! You’re a cappuccino baby! Caffeinate this process. Free yourself.
These days you can find me at dinner parties, speaking as loud and as fast as any Spaniard. And oh, the heated debates I can get into with Elena! Sometimes we don’t make sense, sometimes we erupt into laughter, and sometimes all we use our voices for is to congratulate each other for the awesome things we’re doing in life.
But no matter what else, we are here, and we are loud.
Simone Clement walks women through the process of finding their voices, and using them to create beautiful online businesses.
Why are we doing this thing? Because there’s enough noise in the world telling women what we ‘should’ be doing.
We should parent more consciously, but not be helicopter parents. We should take care of our bodies, but not be vain. We should make boys pay, but demand equal rights. We should dress appropriately, but also be confident in our skin, wear what we want, but not be provocative, oh and please feel comfortable in the world’s skimpiest school bathers but then wear your jeans to the formal because last year the boys looked up the girls’ skirts and so you’ll have to be the ones to modify your behaviour. Yeah. No.
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