As an adult, I’ve always been keenly aware that I often hold myself back from speaking up in certain situations. I recognize it. I acknowledge it.
I move past it in fits and starts, only to find myself back at square one after a while.
Driving home from work on Monday, I had a light bulb moment. Nope, hang on a second. A light bulb exploding moment. It was mind-blowing, both in it’s truth and in it’s pure simpleness.
I’ve been listening to the audio-book of Brene Brown’s “The Power of Vulnerability.”
(You should probably just go buy it now – it’s crazy good).
She was relating stories of shame and how they can impact our lives and how we show up. One story was about a teacher shaming a student in middle school. It was difficult to listen to. It made my mamma bear come out and I got angry. And then I became immensely sad for the young girl in the story.
Then the epiphany struck.
I felt the anger and immense sadness, not as a parent (well, not completely as a parent), but because I was once that young girl.
Listen, I’m a life-long, proud book nerd. I fly that flag with no shame or embarrassment. However, her story triggered a memory from the recesses of my mind.
A teacher in a middle school English class asked if anyone had book suggestions for the rest of the class. Being the proud book nerd and (at the time) outgoing student, I raised my hand and recommended Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. I’d just finished it and was smitten with Oliver and the Artful Dodger.
This teacher looked at me with what can only be described as disgust as she berated me for suggesting a book above not only the classes reading level, but my reading level.
Never-mind the fact that I’d just received a perfect grade on my book report written about the same exact book, I felt small. I felt dumb. I was ashamed for opening my mouth and recommending the book.
I never realized (at least consciously) until Monday, but that was the turning point for me. That shaming experience turned me from the student who always raised my hand first to one who had to force myself to raise my hand or speak up.
As an adult, it’s much easier for me to force myself to do so, but there is still that moment of hesitation. That moment of self-doubt. That remaining shame over speaking up.
But here’s the thing about shame. Once you expose it to the light, it is incredibly hard for it to remain in control of your mind and actions.
So I’m showing it the light – both figuratively (by writing about it) and literally (by writing out the experience and burning the paper).
I’m done living in that place of shame, stemming from 15+ years ago.
I’m done with my fear of speaking up.
I’m done with my fear of being seen.
It’s time to say yes to my voice.
And so it is.