Having a voice and being heard are two very, very different things.
Quite often, when I hear or see someone share their story publicly for the first time, it’s followed by encouragement from friends and loved ones saying, “You will be heard.”
First of all, I really appreciate people who give this kind of encouragement – they could simply remain silent, but they instead encourage. I love this. Without a doubt, this is nothing but well intentioned and is likely successful in encouraging the person who’s shared their story. So important.
The problem, though, is that we tend to place focus on external factors – things completely outside our realm of control.
Believe it or not, it’s SO common (ridiculously common) for me to hear from people saying that they shared their story with their parents, only to be dis-believed or even ignored. Or, they shared with their closest friend, only to then be discouraged from telling anyone else, so not to risk the potential ramifications.
On other more public occasions, we read headlines about allegations against celebrities and well-known individuals, sometimes years after the fact. And, what follows? One side defends those making the allegations… and the other side ridicules, asking why they took so long to come forward if the allegations are true, or accusing them of doing it for money or fame or you name it.
These stories are all too familiar. Unfortunately.
But, the truth is that when we put our own emotional well being in the hands of others, to be dictated by their words, opinions, or actions – even if they’re the most loving, caring people on earth – we open ourselves up for disappointment, heartache, and a skewed sense of self-worth. Worst of all, we open our hearts to untruths, to lies.
Here at the office, we receive emails from people all the time saying, “After being afraid and ashamed for years, I’ve finally found my voice and realize my worth, and it’s changed my life.”
Did you catch the distinguishing factor in this sentence? It’s a big one. Read it again.
The individuals’ own voices are the key to them being set free. They weren’t reliant on others to hear them, to believe them, or to support them. Instead, they found freedom by way of discovering and using their own voices.
Their voices are their own, are controlled by no one else, and offer a deep sense of purpose and value to their lives.
No one can take this away or control it. No matter what.
I can speak from personal experience that finding my own voice not only brought freedom to me personally, but it also gave me a sense of value and purpose knowing that it could now change the lives of others as well. What used to be a super crappy story… suddenly became this enormous asset that could positively change a LOT of people’s lives.
Having discovered this new purpose was huge for me in regard to my own sense of self-worth (which was very healing and freeing) and opened up a world of opportunities that I never thought possible. Heck, I never planned to share my story with a single soul, and yet I now find myself leading a nonprofit focused on helping others do precisely this.
Is this the result of me being heard or of me having a voice?
(Answer: the latter.)
It’s important for all of us to have people in our lives who care about us, who listen, and who encourage. My family and close friends played this role, and so did my counselor, Swede. And it was very healing. None of it could have happened, though, without me first using my voice.
Having a voice, and even being a voice is much more worthy of our pursuit than being heard. By gaining your own voice, you’ll discover just how much worth you possess and that your story is unique and lends value in a way that no one else’s could.
Don’t worry about being heard. If you use your voice to speak truth and love, you’ll be heard regardless – and by those who truly need to hear what you have to share.
If you were sexually abused as a kid (or are a parent/guardian to a minor who was) and are interested in seeking counseling, like I did, I’d encourage you to apply with us (confidentially).
If you’re interested helping fund counseling for our grantees, I’d love for you to become part of The Fam.