Finding My Voice: A Journey of Liberation in Love
In the vast tapestry of relationships, many women find themselves woven into a silent corner, muted by societal expectations and generations of conditioning. Today, women are different (it seems that way), our world has changed, and the expectations of us have changed. Or have they? It takes a profound metamorphosis to learn to speak your truth if you have had a lifetime of being taught to defer to men (or others), or have not been allowed to express freely.
Unraveling the Threads of Silence
For too long, countless women have navigated this life by silencing their voices, their dreams, and their desires in the name of tradition or perceived societal norms. The statistics are telling — a staggering number of women have faced the debilitating grip of silence in relationships. But how can it be possible to accurately measure that number?
In one study, researchers followed nearly 4,000 people in Framingham, Massachusetts over 10 years. They found that “women who didn’t express themselves when they had fights with their spouses were four times more likely to die than those who did.” This was true even when factors such as age, blood pressure, smoking, and levels of cholesterol were taken into account.
In the late 1980s, Harvard-trained psychologist Dana Jack identified a recurring theme among female patients suffering from depression: a tendency to self-silence, defined as “the propensity to engage in compulsive caretaking, pleasing the other, and inhibition of self-expression in relationships in an attempt to achieve intimacy and meet relational needs.” Through research, Jack found that this learned behavior, strongly rooted in gender norms, was linked to an increased risk of depression.
Since then, considerable evidence has revealed that female self-silencing isn’t just tied to psychological issues like depression and eating disorders, but also to physical illness.
When women push their feelings down and cast their needs aside, their health suffers. But it can be difficult for women to do otherwise in a culture that celebrates these *self-silencing practices. While young women are praised for “being chill,” moms are revered for being painstakingly altruistic to the point of self-abnegation. These unspoken standards establish a vicious cycle. For many women, it feels easier—beneficial, even—to silence their needs at the expense of their own health, rather than swim against the prevailing cultural current.
*Self Silencing theory is based on a study of clinically depressed women’s descriptions of their experiences, including their understanding of what led up to their depression. The women detailed how they began to silence or suppress certain thoughts, feelings, and actions that they thought would contradict their partner’s wishes. They did so to avoid conflict, to maintain a relationship, and/or to ensure their psychological or physical safety. They described how silencing their voices led to a loss of self and a sense of being lost in their lives. They also conveyed their shame, desperation, and anger over feelings of entrapment and self-betrayal.
The Struggle: An Intimate Affair
The struggle to break free from this “self-silencing” is, for many, an intimate affair — a battle waged within the confines of one’s own heart and mind. It’s a journey through self-discovery, a realization that our voices are not only valid, but essential to any relationship and to our own health. Many times it is necessary to take this personal battle to a therapist who can help to carefully unravel the threads with compassion and understanding.
My Own Struggle with Self-Silencing
After decades of deferring and silencing, and dealing with depression, I had to consciously become aware and practice finding my own voice.
As a young girl, teenager, and young adult, I followed a silent code I had made when I was very young “I will learn to keep my mouth shut and that way I will avoid fighting and conflict”. I learned that model at home, followed it closely and I was successful. I could avoid the bad stuff. I could be an “observer”, I didn’t have to participate.
Old Outdated Maps
I took this model into my first marriage and my young adult life. It was easier to just go along and not stir the waters. Of course, this only led to surface level relationships, more depression, and the eventual dismantling of my marriage.
No matter how hard I tried, I was still not able to avoid conflict, yet I was lost and overpowered without the strength of my own confident voice and mind. I have often told my kids, “I had to learn how to think for myself and have my own opinion”. Not an easy task! It has taken most of my life to do that and I still have to work on it. Conditioning is powerful.
Getting Outside Help
After years of therapy with a wonderful doctor that I completely trusted, I was able to see and understand the hitch I had made with myself and began to rewrite my map. I had to learn how to standup for myself when necessary, accept the bad things, and act from my own mind even when it felt unsure, scary and uncomfortable. I was able to draft my own internal mission and mantra for my life, rewrite my spiritual beliefs without fear, and move shamelessly back into love.
This is the Reward
Even after being made aware of my own self-silencing, I still failed, many times. Another lost marriage, a dear friendship gone down the drain, more failed love interests, business deals gone bad, and struggles financially. Yet, isn’t this the essence of life? I’ve embraced it, experiencing every twist and turn on my own terms and in my own voice. Today, I can openly share my story with unwavering authenticity, free from fear, or how I “should be”. This, to me, is the ultimate reward.
Shattering the Chains: Embracing Empowerment
The journey of finding one’s voice is not a sprint but a marathon (understatement!!), often marked by moments of courage and self-reflection. It’s about reclaiming power, rewriting narratives, starting new habits, and embracing the beauty of authentic self-expression. This doesn’t happen overnight. And consistency in our self-talk is so important.
We Are Beacons of Change
“A voice gives your opinions a platform, and gifts you with the opportunity to have perspective and knowledge on things that matter. No two voices are the same, each voice has something different to say. And in a world that needs to represent freedom and democracy, a voice is a powerful symbol of this.” ~ The U.S. Surgeon General
According to studies on self-silencing and having your own voice, women who actively communicate their needs and desires in relationships report higher levels of satisfaction and fulfillment. This underscores the importance of breaking free from the shackles of silence and embracing open communication.
When you speak up, it is not always going to be a positive experience. In fact, your worst fears may come true…
*People may laugh at you, ignore you, or maybe even attack you for something you say. When this happens, it is easy to become discouraged and slip back into censorship or self-silencing. Building resilience empowers you to push through negative emotions, reclaim your voice, and stay committed to using and honoring your voice.
Building resilience when things don’t go the way you want can look like this:
- Practicing self-compassion through positive self-talk
- Normalizing rejection and not taking it too personally
- Finding safe spaces and people who value your voice for additional support/validation
- Reframing your perspective to elicit a more positive feeling
- Hold empathy for the other people involved that their response may not be about you but instead something that they are experiencing
For building resilience, I also found that practicing the “Four Agreements” was highly effective for me along my journey:
- Be impeccable with your words
- Don’t take things personally
- Never make assumptions
- Always do your best
Embracing the Power Within
As we navigate the path to finding our voices, it’s crucial to recognize the power that resides within us. Each word uttered, every desire expressed, contributes to experiencing a healthy relationship – it is your creative power! This is why professional help is sometimes necessary to help you move from self-silencing (the old map) to a powerful and creative voice (the new map). You must learn to love and respect yourself first. From that foundation, you can learn your voice clearly and compassionately. Understanding and acceptance is the key to our own personal success in discovering our true authentic voice.
Nurturing Transformation: A Call to Action
The journey to finding your voice is a personal one, unique as your heartbeat. It’s about recognizing the patterns, understanding the roots, and compassionately putting those things into their historical past. Only then can you coax the buds of self-expression to bloom. Make these things a practice:
1. Reflect: Take a moment to reflect on your own journey. What patterns of silence do you recognize, and how have they shaped your relationships?
2. Communicate: Engage in open conversations with your partner, friend, or loved one. Share your desires, dreams, and fears. Find a space wherein you can be free to be yourself without condemnation or judgement. Let your voice weave into the intricate dance of connection.
3. Seek Support: Reach out to friends, support groups, or professionals who can provide guidance and understanding on your journey.
A Symphony of Voices: The Future of Love
As we navigate the labyrinth of relationships, let us envision a future where every voice is heard, cherished, and celebrated. The journey to finding our voices is not just a personal triumph; it’s a collective revolution that transforms the landscape of love. It will change the world. No longer judged by social norms or conditions, but we will be accepted for our wisdom, our love, compassion, and the joy we bring to others.
That is my mission for SaturdaySoul.com, to offer a space where stories intertwine, where voices echo, and where understanding illuminates our paths to self-discovery and liberation. Together, let’s break the chains of silence and create a symphony of voices that resonate with the power of authenticity and love.