I woke up this morning knowing I wanted to write a post and having no idea of what to say. I seemed tapped out – at least for the moment. Then I remembered my father saying, “you babble on and on,” when I was little and my mother said, “you opened your mouth and haven’t shut up since.”
There are many times I am sure there were times when someone said something derogatory or hurtful, or told me what or how I should do or act and were just plain wrong. How much of my inability to speak up comes from what I heard as a child – the message being Shut Up – what you have to say is not important, you are not important.
I certainly spoke up when I got to school and was punished for it. I was sent to the principal’s office. My mother had to come to school and she was not happy. When I got older I didn’t know why, but my voice disappeared. Words crossed my mind. Words I knew were right for that moment, but they were words I could not say, thought I knew the answer. I no longer raised my hand when the teacher asked for feedback or information. It was like something in me was turned off. I was afraid.
Would I appear stupid? My parents said I was when I was little so I believed it. Would my answer be ridiculous? Or would I get tongue tied and seem like a fool? I even practiced what to say in my head and still couldn’t do it. Even if I was determined to speak I would wait too long and someone else would answer before I could get up enough courage. Or worst of all, would I be ignored, a living ghost that is there and afraid to say anything?
When I was studying for my PhD I read many articles about this problem. Experiments were done that proved teachers called on males most often. Females were ignored leaving them feeling inadequate. Thankfully that has changed, at least that’s what I’m told.
There are other reasons people don’t speak up. Perhaps it’s thinking there is nothing else to be said on that topic. However, most people will finally admit it is fear. If it is business it can be fear of being fired. If we can be honest that is not the truth. It is fear of saying the wrong thing and getting punished in some way, even ostracized. Some believe that those who are in a ‘higher’ social position know better than you. Therefore it might be dangerous to speak against them. They went to a better school so they have to be smarter. A study was done that when analyzed showed that some people “become dumb” when in a group with those they think are smarter than they are. How can anyone put a relationship in jeopardy when it might mean losing the person or the job.
I remember being in kindergarten and first grade and hating it because we had to sit still and listen. The teacher spoke and we had to be good and wait to be called on. Between my parents and school I gave up. I was too little to fight them and didn’t want to go to the principal’s office again because my mother would be mad at me.
I got married and couldn’t speak up. I watched my parents closely as children do. In those days men were the ones who worked and brought home the money. Women stayed home and obeyed. Certainly that was more prevalent in my parent’s relationship but I had lived with it and it seeped into my being. I was petrified when I asked my husband if I could try out for a scholarship. I would never do that today, but I had learned well.
Our fears are based on the fear of rejection, of losing those we love or need. Studies have been done that show that the brain shows rejection in the same place as physical pain and rejection is the most feared thing that can happen to a human.
Not everyone is fearful. I think back to the boys who answered in school and others who spoke out. More people speak up now, especially women, who didn’t so many years ago.
As a singer I know how important voice is. Every turn of phrase, every nuance is heard and digested. A softer tone says something different from a loud one. Like here on these pages where we do not capitalize every letter because it means shouting. Your voice shows joy, passion, beliefs, opinions and more. It says who we are. Be as happy as this young girl.