I can remember like it was yesterday, sitting in a management meeting and giving suggestions and feedback on processes and being totally ignored like my ideas didn’t matter. Or even feeling like I was being questioned by the owner of the company in a way like I had no clue what I was talking about. In the beginning, I really didn’t think much about it because the guy was a jerk all the time to pretty much everybody. Then something became apparent to me, a guy could speak up in that same meeting and not offer nearly as much value or expertise as I had, and it would automatically be respected. At the time it was very disgusting, to say the least, and that along with a bunch of other things prompted me to seek employment elsewhere.
I found a great new job with a company that prided themselves on being for their people. I would sit in meetings where feedback was encouraged no matter your position, length of employment, ethnicity, etc. The feeling was so refreshing. I would sit in those meetings loving every moment. Everything just always felt right, the people, the energy, even the air felt better for some reason. The problem was that I would sit in the meetings blank. I had all these things to say and ideas to give and would sit there like a ghost. Every Friday I would promise myself today will be the day that I speak up. It really felt like a safe environment so what was the problem? I had lost my voice. My previous experiences, unfortunately, carried over to my new work home. The past situations made me shut down and begin to feel my ideas and thoughts needed to be kept to myself. I hated that I would just sit there in meetings and not say anything, but I honestly had a hard time finding my voice again.
Then something happened. I sat in our regular Friday meeting listening to everyone discuss different topics. Then one topic came up about changing something that was considered more complex to a simpler task. If you know anything about me then you know I am AMBITIOUS and I love growth. In fear of this new change affecting my growth, I decided to speak up. It’s crazy because I didn’t even think about it before the words exited my mouth. I just literally spoke up and said I was against it and explained why. My manager and the director both were very impressed with my opposition. I remember feeling so many feelings all at once. I’m literally thinking to myself, wow did that just happen. I remember feeling relieved and appreciated for contributing to the conversation. After that meeting, I go on to make a cup of coffee, and the director came up to me and told me she appreciated my thoughts and encouraged me to speak up more. Little by little I did so. I’d be lying if I told you I did it all the time, but I got better with utilizing my voice as time went on. I eventually shared with my current manager my past experiences and how it made me not want to use my voice. She vowed that it would be her mission to help me bring my voice back out. Little by little I began to speak up more and bring forth my ideas. My manager and the director continued to encourage me along the way.
Now although I am not 100 percent where I would like to be, I am close. I feel like now I have a new idea that I am throwing out there every day. I am also speaking up in almost every meeting. My ideas are being supported and used and I gained a lot more self-confidence back that was stolen from me. I say this to encourage you to speak up and take back your voice if you have ever been a victim of that type of treatment. Our past situations sometimes can cause so much damage but with the right people in your corner to help you move past the damage, your voice can be restored. Our voices are so important, especially as women we bring so much to the table and can sometimes be discredited based on our gender. Don’t lose your voice there are other appreciative people that need and want to hear it.