Offering Luminaries A Place to Cultivate
Enjoy A Little Peace & Ease
While on Your Journey to Become
Who You are Meant to Be....
I have been considering what it actually means to have a voice. Looking at my personal practice of speaking, wondering if what I hear is my authentic voice or are the sounds that come from me planted there from others I have encountered at work, with family, or in relationship?
Thinking about my voice on and off all morning, I noticed after watering the garden a huge mosquito bite on my throat, directly on my voice box. Rubbing the bite I questioned is this where my voice lives?
I am not in the habit of exploring the topic of my voice, but lately, I have noticed I have been choosing to practice omission, rather than free expression. This experience has almost become an immediate reflexive action, when in leadership meetings. Although this has not been the case most of my life. I have in general always spoken up for what I believe or shared my opinion kindly.
In fact, I recall the feedback I received after my mother returned from parent-teacher conferences-- Tracy is a very bright girl if she would talk less and do her work she would earn straight A’s. My mother's pep talks did not dissuade me from speaking out, needless to say, I never received straight-A’s in high school.
In graduate school, I noticed for the first time my omission protection strategy. Sitting in the middle of the room during my toxicology course, which I loved, even though it was considered the hardest course in the program. The professor would ask a question and I would respectfully raise my hand. I almost always had the correct answer. It did not take long until I found my peers giving me a look- as if to say shut up, you are making us look bad. The silent pressure changed me, and I held back. I began waiting for them to answer. Although, the usual scenario was—the professor asked and the room was dead silent as I sat quietly diverting my eyes from his gaze until finally, he called on me. I found myself shrinking for the good of the room. Feeling a bit of shame for knowing the answers and being considered smart.
Now sitting here at midlife, I am noticing this tendency to be quiet emerging once again. Not shrinking or shame this time, rather leaving the conversation when I realize I am feelign the collective pressure to go with the common narrative. Generally, this occurs when I find myself in juxtaposition with ideas being discussed. I quickly calculate the relative worth of risking the use of my voice and I find more and more that the effort does not match the value of the offering.
This past week I was sitting in yet another uncomfortable meeting. Fighting internally as to my level of engagement, I found myself squirming in my seat. Once I decide I had nothing to offer the conversation, I turn into myself- and daydreamed. That was until I was called to attention, and as usual, even in my half listening, I had the answer they were searching for.
In reflection the reason I was even aware of my quick tune out— is just moments before the meeting started, I had just ended a phone conversation with a real live rock star. No really, I am not exaggerating here, I was truly on the phone with one of the coolest guys ever. We had been discussing my voice and exploring the potential of going on a journey to find it.
These two events (meeting and phone conversation) just happened to coincide with my performance review and the development of my professional goals for the upcoming year.
In my review, I decided to get brave and broach the topic of my lost voice. I say brave because to share my story meant in part, I had to identify where I felt my peers were not seeing the situation from my view and it sounded a good deal like judgement.
Breathing deeply, I unfolded a sheet of paper when asked, what is your focus for the upcoming year? I had prepared a bullet list of why I wanted to find my true voice. I described how the process would help with my growth as a manager and how it aligned with the institution's strategic goals. To explain further, I had made the connection between taking a songwriting course, and our five-year institutional goals of people, culture, technology and student experience. Needless to say, I had to get creative— about using creativity to reach these goals.
Regardless of the outcome, I am changed.
I am changed by the internal conversations by where I am noticing where I hold back, or push forward. Beginning to uncover why I make these choices either way. Honestly assessing each action, without judgment, has started a very profound conversation with my soul. This bold idea to try something so out of the box from my normal life that might open a door to undiscovered parts of me is beyond exciting.
It appears that right now I am ready to discover my true voice, the voice I believe is ready to share boldly- in a unique way- the power and strength I have covered up with fear all these forty plus years.
At this point, all I know to be true is that when a situation touches you, its unfolding is not without reason or Divine oversight. There is something here- even in as much as talking with a rock star on the phone as if he was a new friend… leaves me asking who the heck am I? Where did that stage-frightened, shy girl, who dropped out of a freshman speech class because she almost passed out during her first introduction speech- go?
I guess the answer will be found through better understanding my voice….. how I use it, where it resides and what it really wants to say.
What I love is that the workplace is a wondrous playground for personal growth— that is if you care to step back and look at all the opportunities for expansion.
Take a moment to cultivate serenity
May I ask because I am honestly curious—
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