You Have A Voice
For so many years, I had become so detached from my voice. Operating from or even identifying my authentic existence in this world was replaced with a desire to please and perform. Stuck in this superficial layer, craving to go deeper; yet, unsure of what that even looks like.
I don't know when this implicit belief of not having a voice began. My first thought is sometime during undergrad, but the more I ponder upon it, the further back I begin to think it goes. Regardless, I do believe it compounded significantly during my late teens/early 20s. Consumed increasingly so by the demands and expectations placed upon me by society, others, as well as myself, I became further and further detached from myself. Doubt and shame— so dense and unforgiving— quickly pooling into any pocket or crevice of my mind left unattended to.
I can recall numerous instances when I had something I wanted to say. Something I wanted to share. Yet, as soon as I would think about speaking it out loud, the desire would become stifled promptly and forcefully. As if someone had both their hands around my neck— tightening their grip ensuring I wouldn’t dare speak up. Wouldn’t dare try. Wouldn't be so silly to actually believe I had something of value to say. So, I would resort to remaining silent or simply saying what I thought the other person wanted to hear.
Fear, insecurity, and pride each contributed to this inner turmoil, whisked together into a thick batter of hollow performance. A bitter aftertaste of unmet expectations and disappointment. Fear of what others might think, fear of failure. Insecurity in my voice or sounding dumb and incompetent rather than eloquent and smart— traits I so badly wanted to possess. Traits I idolized, really. Pride in wanting— needing— to be perceived one way and nothing less than that. Pride in wanting to live up to the idealized version of myself living within my head. A whole existence wrapped around this obsession over how I am perceived by others and who I needed to be in order to be accepted and approved of.
Over these past couple years, my life has been flipped over on its head. For the first time, I have begun creating space for myself. Breathing room for my soul— attuning to my own voice, needs, and desires rather than pouring all my focus and energy outward. Not in a self-exaltation or I-don't-need-anyone huffing and puffing kind of way, but delicately. Humbly. Honestly.
This journey of engaging my voice and learning more about who I was created to be has had its challenges. It most definitely has not been glamorous and graceful, but riddled with lots of mistakes and endless trial-and-error. It has stretched me and bent me in more ways than one. But with every additional stretch mark and every fresh dent, I am learning to find magnificence in the messy and extraordinary in the ordinary. Learning to stop caving in to perfectionism, and instead celebrate the progress made. Learning to break free from a shame-based system and transition into a system based upon grace.
I still have moments when I'm crippled by fear; still have moments of anxiety-provoking insecurity; and I most definitely still have my moments of letting pride infiltrate my heart. However, they no longer have a grip over me the way they used to. The reason: my self-worth and need for acceptance are no longer hanging in the balance. Furthermore, when these things do arise, I am learning to recognize them sooner rather than later, helping me tend to and lay them down more quickly.
And another thing— I would not be where or who I am today without the love, wisdom, guidance, encouragement, and support that has been poured into me by others. I am eternally grateful for each person who has helped me restructure my worldview, replacing lies with Truths one by one. I am especially grateful for my sweet Clay who has been right by my side throughout this journey, saying the hard things when necessary and refusing to back down from a challenge, all the while wrapping me in his love and amazing me with his enduring patience. Lastly, I have been finding myself ceaselessly, powerfully in awe of our Savior. I do not believe my journey of recognizing my voice and my worth happening in parallel with my journey of learning more about the true nature and character of Christ is a coincidence. It is in the pursuit of Him that I have begun finding myself.
These lyrics from Gratitude by Brandon Lake have remained on my heart since I first heard them earlier this year:
So come on, my soul
Oh, don't you get shy on me
Lift up your song
'Cause you've got a lion inside of those lungs
Get up and praise the Lord
Today, wherever you are, I hope you may acknowledge and recognize the power of your voice. The impact of your words. The worthiness you innately hold & the imprint you leave wherever you are planted.
So come on, sweet sweet soul, and lift up your song.