After reading this article and the subsequent posts on Facebook, I found myself thinking a lot about the challenges women face when trying to let their voices be heard.
As a woman, it’s scary trying to speak up when you’ve been systematically trained that in doing so you will be penalized or punished on some level. This is true for girls who are told to be “good”’ is to be quiet and polite and for women leaders who are labeled an array of negative things for speaking up.
But your voice is needed. We need to hear what you have to say. You have to get comfortable owning your voice because I believe our global community depends on more women finding and owning their voices.
You don’t want to be arrogant about it but you also don’t need to diminish your voice for the sake of making someone else more comfortable. Here are 7 steps you can take to be comfortable owning your voice.
1) Recognize you have something valuable to say
You have to first start with knowing that you are capable of adding value to the conversation. You matter and your words matter. Avoid measuring the worth of your words against the other people at the table or in the room. If you start playing the comparison game, you’ve devalued yourself before you even start. Don’t do that to yourself. Instead believe in yourself and in what you have to say.
2) Be strategic about what you say and when you say it
Don’t speak for the sake of speaking. Be sure that you speak thoughtfully and in an engaging manner. Be inclusive in your language not decisive. This is harder to do when the conversation turns heated but you can disagree with someone without demonizing him or her. Getting angry is counterproductive so try to keep it out of the conversation.
3) Be confident, not defensive
A defensive posture instinctively says you have something to prove. On the other hand, when you are confident you have nothing prove, you only have to show everyone else what you already know to be true. Be confident in who you are and the value you bring (see number 1) and speak from that place, rather than a place of trying to prove something.
4) Stay in integrity with yourself
You have to be willing to speak up when something goes against a deeply held value for you. Silence or backing down in those moments is not an option. It is far more important for you to look yourself in the mirror and like what you see than for you to be concerned what someone else might think of you.
5) Be prepared for possible backlash
While I want to believe things are improving, there are still some environments where women leaders are penalized for speaking up. You may be labeled aggressive, called a bitch, or told you’re too much. But remember two things: 1) criticism comes with being a leader, regardless of gender; the words are just nastier when attached to a leader who is a woman. And 2) the labels and name-calling have very little to do with you personally and more to do with how uncomfortable people are with you breaking gender stereotypes. Don’t take it personally and move on as quickly as you can.
6) Have safe places
The criticism may be harsh and can take a toll on you emotionally. I am not advocating for one second that you pretend like it doesn’t bother you. It should bother you because you’re human and I don’t want you pretending something that isn’t true. When that happens, know the safe places that you can turn to for the support you need to keep moving forward. No woman is an island; so don’t feel you have to deal with it alone.
7) Baby steps count
It’s scary and risky to put yourself out there and allow your voice to be heard. You may not be able to do it all at once or in a really big way. That’s okay. Find a small way that you can begin today. Maybe start by saying no more or intentionally apologizing less. Baby steps count so start where you can, doing what you can.
Your voice is your power. You cannot give it up to anyone for any reason. I believe the power of the feminine voice is missing in most conversations today, on multiple levels. Today, decide that you are owning your voice and reclaiming your power, whatever that might look like for you.
From my heart to yours,
If you’re ready to own your voice so you can stand more confidently in your leadership, click here to schedule a time for you and I talk about how you can make that happen today.