In today’s world it is easy to surround yourself with the opinions of others. You can flip on the tv, turn on the radio, scroll through your social feed and you’ll be bombarded with he said, she said, they said. While the endless mediums of expression offer so many an outlet for a voice, it can also be overwhelming when it comes to discovering your own. Do you feel the power of your own voice? Have you discovered your unique voice? These questions can easily be shrugged off with a “sure, I post” but what I ask is about more than just a post, it’s a question of whether or not you have given yourself permission to have an opinion and speak up for yourself. It’s a question and a distinction that I once so desperately needed to hear. It’s a question that when answered honestly can create a road to empowerment.

A distinct quality of my personality is my niceness. While this is a quality I am proud of, it is also one that has acted as a prison to my voice. I treasure my niceness because I truly feel that this world is a better place when people are treated with kindness and I love watching how people transform when faced with a little love. However, this quality of niceness had a dark side that I didn’t recognize for a great part of my life. I allowed niceness to stifle my voice, creating a woman who wouldn’t speak an opinion that would make others uncomfortable, who would defer to others, and who would leave wrongs unsaid because nice girls don’t cause trouble. My niceness had an edge of old school patriarchal control to it, “women are meant to be seen and not heard.” There was a time where this quiet niceness felt comforting and safe but the more I looked the more I discovered the internal damage that happens when we don’t allow ourselves to have a voice; thus, I share now in case you feel the need to take the journey to discover your own voice too. It’s worth it I promise.

It’s easier to find your voice when you know why it matters because perhaps not speaking up has been safely comfortable for you like it was for me. So, why make the change? Why be vulnerable enough to speak up? Your voice gives you access to your personal power. It is helps you step into your Empowered Self, the part of you that knows you can make a difference, you are capable, and you matter. When you let yourself speak up, you allow yourself to be seen. You declare to yourself and to the world “I am here.” This important declaration exposes your inner worth. When you allow your opinion to be heard, when you speak up for yourself, when you step into your truth you create a ripple in the world and the more that good people speak up the more that this world changes for the better. So, finding your voice is twofold: it says “I’m worthy of an opinion” and “I care about shaping my world with my words.” That’s a pretty empowering and beautiful step to take for yourself.

 You may be thinking, like I was when I realized I didn’t use my voice, how do I start? Here are 4 tips to help you discover your voice:

Give yourself permission to have an opinion:

“I don’t know,” “what do you think,” or quietly waiting for others to speak up were ways I once deflected my need to have an opinion. Making the switch to a person who feels like their voice matters means giving yourself active permission to form an opinion. Giving yourself permission to have an opinion can start on the inside. Let yourself know that it is okay to care and begin voicing your opinion to yourself. Allow your thoughts to form into an opinion so that you can get to know yourself again. This can help you make the move towards expressing your opinion out loud.

Know your values:

Take time to think about where your values lie. What do you care about? What values shape the way you want to live and to show up in the world? Asking yourself these important questions can help you determine when it is the right time to speak up and voice your opinion. When you know you are acting in line with your values, you can feel good about your choice to have a voice even when it is hard. A great example of this being an ally to Black Lives Matter is in line with my values so when I am faced with someone who says something that perpetuates racism, even unintentionally, I know that it is a place for me to use my voice even if it is uncomfortable.

Choose your voice:

Recognize that discovering your voice doesn’t mean you need to speak up in every situation. You have a choice to say what you deem as important. You can choose the tone of your voice too. What do you want your voice to stand for? A great example of how choice is important is when faced with anger. It can be both important and liberating to speak to the person who has angered you; however, you have a choice of whether to speak to them reactively, blowing up from your anger, or instead choosing to speak with thought in a way that will have the impact you truly desire.

Practice compassion:

Compassion has three components to it: kindness and understanding, common humanity, and mindfulness. When practicing compassion to yourself and others you give yourself the room to grow, to learn who you are, and to recognize that it is okay to make mistakes. Be kind and understanding as you develop your voice and in your reaction to others. Common humanity means understanding that everyone makes mistakes and you may too so a mistake isn’t a reason to stop but an opportunity to learn and refine your voice. Mindfulness means being present as you use your voice so that you can speak up in a way that’s meaningful to you.

These 4 tips can help you discover a voice that you can be proud of. You deserve to be heard. Your opinion matters. You get to choose when you speak up and when you remain silent but when you have gone on the journey to find your voice this choice becomes personally empowering because your silence no longer means suppression but instead becomes a chosen form of expression. We all have something to say and our words play an important part in shaping the world. Your words are important, give yourself permission to find them again.