Gloria Steinem’s book, My Life On The Road, was a revelation to me, for so many reasons. After studying many aspects of feminist history for my early PhD research, being able to read the stories of actual events first hand was like being there, in all of those moments that defined history. As I was reflecting while writing this chapter about women finding and using our voices, one story Ms.Steinem shared leapt out at me.
She recounts the story of being at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 when Martin Luther King. Jr. was leading the march on Washington in a campaign for jobs and justice. As he finished his remarks, Gloria Steinem heard Mahalia Jackson, his wife, call out, “Tell them about the dream, Martin!” And one of the most famous speeches in the history of the world, “I have a dream…” commenced.
What if Mahalia Jackson hadn’t spoken up on that day? What if she hadn’t called out, “tell them about the dream, Martin?” What if her voice, a black woman’s voice so frequently silenced, had not been heard? We will never know. But we do know that it made a profound difference to history on that day.
As I reflect on this, I think about where I need to raise my voice. Where I need to speak out. Where I need to be brave about starting conversations that matter, to do the work I want to do in the world. And I think about all the times I stayed silent in my life. In boardroom meetings where I waited for the man beside me to raise the issue I wanted to raise. In discussions with my male boss, any number of them, where I disagreed and wanted to say so. In relationships where I bit my tongue instead of speaking my truth.
And I think about you, in your work and life and I ask you this: Where are you not speaking up? Where are you staying silent? Where do you want to raise your voice, on what issues, on what projects, in what settings? What do you really want to say to your boss, your team, your partner, your best friend or your kids? Where are you holding back? And why? What are the stories you are telling yourself about what might happen if you truly showed up, spoke up, and were seen? How can you challenge those stories, knowing that ninety per cent of them, if not all of them, just aren’t true?
What if we pushed past the limiting stories in our own minds and just said what we wanted to say? What if we believed that we have just as much right, just as much intelligence, and just as much value to offer as anyone else? What if we really found our voice, and stopped looking around for who might potentially shut us down for speaking out?
What if we just decided to speak?
Ask yourself this question: What do I want to say?
Stepping into our true confidence starts with finding the courage to speak our truth. From speaking up in the meeting, to speaking out on social injustice issues, to speaking up at home, your voice matters.
Make a commitment to yourself to speak up. To honor yourself, your intelligence, your power. To have your voice be heard.