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Five Steps for Developing Your Voice

In learning to use one's voice, it's easy to think you're not making any progress. For anyone first discovering that they have real opinions and feelings in disagreement with the popular stance, it can be quite intimidating to say out loud what you really think. There's a lot of resistance out there and some of it is quite subtle. The more subtle the pushback (like the physical turn away, the silence, the rolled eyes), the more likely you are to just think you're the crazy one. But you're not.

Here are some things to stay focused on...

  1. Be honest with yourself. How do you really feel?

  2. Overcome your own fear of backlash. This probably includes a lot of kind, graceful self-talk. "This is hard. You can do it. Your perspective matters." It also might include finding a few comrades who see you and believe you to cheer you on and pray for you as you progress.

  3. Let the words come out of your mouth.

  4. Self-validate, especially if you hear nothing in response. DON'T TAKE IT BACK. This may be the hardest part because the system will push back and likely shame you. Self-validation means more of that self-kindness. It can also help a lot to rally with your safe comrades.

  5. Keep it up. You're going to have to keep at it till the system changes. You don't necessarily need to get louder or more obnoxious, but don't quit.

My own experiences with developing my voice (as a daughter, a wife, a mom, and in my church) have been discouraging to say the least; shame for feeling differently, looking different, and seeing differently than the culture around me. I have often felt like giving up, walking away permanently, or just isolating myself so I don't have to feel the sting of discord. But the long-term resistance has been worth it, bringing healing, reconciliation, and true intimacy in my small communities.

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