Just show up… as you: 10 Lessons to help you own your voice, space, and truth

June 22, 2020 5 min read

I started planning this post to be about just showing up as yourself but as I was writing the title, I realized that I could unpack it further. I find it puzzling that people ask me why they struggle to get the credibility they so rightly deserve. Because I am probably too direct for most people’s liking, I struggle internally with my response and response time. I realize that though I want to interrupt them and say, really, I can’t. So I put my coaching hat on and ask them probing questions about how this lack of credibility shows up in their lives. Typically, the response is that they may have gotten overlooked for a promotion or they are never taken seriously in their personal life. They attribute these missed opportunities to not speaking up for themselves or not knowing how to express themselves.

 

Too often we try to fit into a box; fit what we think people want us to be. It is in those times that we diminish our self-worth and authenticity by being someone we are not. How many times can you identify when you didn’t weigh in because you were afraid to be seen as loud, controlling, a know-it-all, or a brown noser? How many times have you kept great ideas or solutions to yourself because you believed your role was to make someone else feel bigger? How many times have you dimed your light for another. I am sure that many of us have had experiences where we felt that showing up as ourselves was not enough.

 

Well I am here to tell you that you cannot be your best, most authentic self, if you do not own your voice, space, and truth. That sounds so easy, right? Maybe it is, but let’s talk about what it means to actually own your voice, space, and truth.

 

{Personal story alert}

 

As I’ve shared, I was extremely shy growing up. Looking back I remember carrying myself as though I would do anything to simply disappear. Notably, my voice was low, my head hung low, my posture was almost curved inward, and let’s not talk about my hair and attire. Actually, let’s talk about both. I wore a ponytail and my regular uniform consisted of t-shirts, jeans, and fake (yes FAKE) Doc Martens. I would love to say something positive about how I carried myself, but… nope… I was a “spicy disaster.” To further paint the picture, speaking in class would result in my voice shaking so badly, I doubt that anyone could really understand what I was saying. I’m pretty sure I earned some sympathy As simply because I looked like I would faint at any moment

 

Cut to first year of college, my appearance changed dramatically but I still struggled with owning my voice. It was not until 2nd year of college that everything began changing and falling into place. I transferred to a different university to be closer to home. I remember making a conscious decision to show up as the person I wanted to be: friendly, outgoing, and strong. I remember saying to myself, those people don’t know you. And honestly, even if we attended high school together, they still didn’t know me. So as they say, sophomore year, I showed up and showed out. I joined a sorority, began wearing skirts and high heels, went to parties, flirted, drank, and worked out… bottom line I lost my entire mind. At the end of first semester of sophomore year, I realized that my GPA had dropped below a 3.5 and I called time on the “new” me and went back to the drawing board.

 

I wish I could report that it was then that I became who I am today. Not exactly… Let’s cut to 9 years later when I was in my first year of law school. During the required oral argument, the judges asked me if I needed to sit down because I looked as though I was going to faint. I was able to whisper I was fine and pressed on. Armed with the embarrassment of that situation, I made a few decisions that serve me to this day:

 

  1. I have just as much to say as the next person.
  2. I deserve to be in the room. Even if I don’t know how I got in that room, I am not there by mistake.
  3. I deserve to be heard as long as I am being authentic and I am doing my best to avoid telling lies and being malicious.

 

Since then I have owned my voice, space, and truth and haven’t looked back since. Sorry not sorry…

 

“Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.”

- Lao Tzu

 

So how did my transformation happen? As you can see, it wasn’t overnight by any means. Every experience added to the urgency I felt to find my voice and let it be heard. As I looked back on my transformation, a few lessons stood out for me.

 

“Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, add what is specifically your own.”

- Bruce Lee

 

  1. Reflect on who you are and how you want to be perceived. Determine what that looks like and commit to taking steps to being that person.
  2. Ensure that what you have to say is true. I had to learn that the second part of this is even if it is true, is it malicious? If so, don’t say it.
  3. Do not let the daily grind get you off track (i.e. a bad day, a couple of bad days, someone else’s opinion of who, what, where you should be, society/media’s portrayal of who and where you should be, etc).
  4. Whatever comes your way, you must remain true to you in the process of handling it.
  5. It is okay to remain silent. Speaking doesn’t always equal to having a voice. Sometime, it is just adding to the noise. More importantly, other times it can have the effect of diminishing your voice.
  6. Learn to find the value in criticism and feedback. Understand other people’s opinions have value. They present another perspective by which to strengthen you perspective or even change it for the better.
  7. Being unsure of your position on something is ok. Moreover, so is admitting it. You should see this as an opportunity to learn more about the issue and take your time forming your opinion.
  8. Forming boundaries is healthy. It allows you to begin to clearly define your space.
  9. As you grow, your voice and truth must change. With more life experiences and knowledge, it is inevitable that growth will occur or at least it should.
  10. Apologize when you make a mistake or wrong someone. Your ability to admit your mistakes lends credibility to your voice.

 

“Every time you speak, you are telling the world who you are.”

- Anonymous

 

 

The final word… You have something to add to the conversation. Stand tall and be heard!


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