I have grown up learning to respect my elders, to follow rules, to do the right thing. These are morals and principles that have guided me through my life, that have built me into a woman of honor and grace, that have created the foundations of relationships I value to this day. I have learned when to speak up and when to listen, when to push boundaries and when to accept certain traditions for what they are. I have learned how to grow, while not stepping on anyone else in the process.
But I have also learned that regardless of my sex, my age, my experience, and the opinions of others, I am worthy and empowered and entitled to my own voice.
There are pieces of who I am that have been built by people older than me; there are parts of this life that I accept as truth because of the influence of others, or what has been established well before my time. And just as important, there are values I hold close that are strictly my own.
And as I’ve built myself into a creative person, into a writer, into a professional, and into an adult, I have learned that being a ‘good’ person does not always mean biting my tongue.
I have learned that when I see something I don’t stand for, I am doing a disservice to myself and others by staying silent. I have learned that when I don’t agree, I can, and should question and speak my mind. I have learned that the only way I grow (the way anyone grows, really) is by pushing back against certain expectations, rules, boundaries, and perspectives to create personal truths.
I have learned that what I think, believe, feel, and do, matters.
We are all entitled to our own opinions and perspectives. We are allowed, and should make our own decisions. We should be encouraged to challenge the way things have been, or the rules we’ve grown up with. We should not apologize for what we think, experience, believe, or feel.
As a white female in my mid-twenties, I am not ignorant to the fact that I’ve been privileged to have this perspective, and I’m not denying that. But what I am advocating for is a change in the way we view other people—regardless of age, sex, race, status, experience level, etc.—we are capable of bringing something powerful to the table. We all have value. We are all worthy in our own ways.
And so lately I’ve been feeling more empowered to speak up, speak out.
When we silence ourselves on the grounds that we’re ‘less experienced,’ or ‘younger,’ or ‘a minority,’ or ‘outnumbered,’ etc. we actually shift the world negatively. Where we could use our perspectives to strengthen or add to the conversation, we’re pulling away, which only damages ourselves and the people around us.
Sometimes the only way to grow is to put ourselves in situations that challenge ourselves and the people around us. Sometimes the only avenue to progress is to stand up for what you believe and shake the foundation someone is standing on, in order for them to think differently. Sometimes biting your tongue may be more respectful, but it’s pacifying a situation rather that turning a moment into a learning experience for both parties (when you speak with kindness and love, not hate).
Bottom line: You might not have it all figured out, you might not know everything, you might not be an expert, but if you feel something strongly or don’t understand what’s happening around you—speak up.
When we challenge authority, challenge biases, challenge opposing perspectives, challenge the ways things have been, we create a society that is forever shifting, growing, and becoming.
When we raise our voices instead of silencing them, we make a difference.
When we open our mouths instead of biting our tongues because we’re ‘supposed to,’ we shift everyone’s thinking and empower ourselves to reach greater heights.
So speak up. Speak out.