I would not define myself as quiet by nature. I would not call myself combative or disruptive, but I have always tended to be expressive in my thoughts and beliefs and I will say what I think (usually in the nicest possible way) if the opportunity arises.
Over the last several years however, I have been “re-trained” mostly as a result of my work environment that it is not okay to express an opinion, especially an opposing viewpoint. As a teenager and a young adult, I was encouraged to think about reasonable ways to express myself. I was encouraged not to be afraid to speak up when I want to say something. I learned to respectfully speak my mind all the while listening to alternative viewpoints. I was taught that I needed to be present and participatory and that it is important to be thoughtfully vocal. Perhaps I was taught not to be afraid to share my thoughts… to “lean in” a little for lack of a better term. However, as a result of leadership changes, fear of retribution, one (or two) too many slaps on the wrist…I have started shutting up, especially at work.
I. Have. Started. Shutting. Up., and I am disappointed in myself that I have allowed that to happen. Sadly, I have noticed that once I started shutting up (and shutting down) at work…I started shutting up (and shutting down) in other aspects of my life as well. I could define it as “caring less” about things that do not matter and instead focusing my energies more on other priorities, but I don’t think that is it. I think that I am behaving instead more like a dog that has been kicked or left outside one too many times. I am angry on the inside and yet, I feel that expressing myself does nothing but make life difficult and so I am resigned…quiet and resigned.
In thinking about it, I am very sad that my workplace, a place that I have given NINE years of my life, has done that to me. I am hopeful that someday when I am no longer in this environment, my spunk and respectful outspokenness and willingness to share my thoughts and opinions will start to come back. Like the regeneration of a worm that has been accidentally cut in half by a trowel digging in the spring dirt.
I do not know that reigniting that willingness to speak up or to suppress the fear that has always come with expressing an alternative opinion will be easy to find inside again. I only hope that by the time my children are old enough to understand their mom as a person and not just as a mom, that they will be proud that I am able to meaningfully and responsibly stand up in word and action for what I believe in.
If I could…right now…before the end of the workday – I would go out into the hallway of this unhealthy place and scream OUTLOUD…
“YOU A$$#!&!&** TOOK AWAY MY VOICE – YEAR AFTER YEAR YOU CHIPPED IT AWAY, AND NO IT IS GONE AND THAT IS WRONG!!”
No one has the right to take away anyone’s voice. No one has the right to say out loud or implicitly that your opinions do not matter. People in power can choose not to listen to opinions or recommendations, but they cannot make you feel small just for having those opinions.
As painful a loss has this has been for me, it has certainly taught me a great life (and parenting lesson). People – all people – all children – should be allowed and encouraged to express their opinion. They should be given a safe space and time to do that and no matter what the outcome…people should be encouraged to feel empowered to share their thoughts. Women should be granted that level of respect, and they often they are not. Children should be granted that level of respect, even when it is not possible to make their opinions reality. Being made to feel useless, worthless, stupid and wrong is no way to treat anyone. It happens so much more than it should.
If possible, I will start working on speaking up and speaking out again. And, I will work on speaking up and speaking out for those who are having their own voices stripped away. I know only too well how it feels…
This post has been part of Finish the Sentence Friday #FTSF. This weeks sentence was…“What I really want to scream outloud” Please check out the wonderful hostesses!