“I seem to have lost my filter this past year.”
“Heheh,” my friend texted back. “Sounds like maybe you’re feeling more empowered and getting to be yourself.”
There’s something special about the people who’ve known you for years. The ones who have witnessed your many iterations of self throughout your evolution. There’s something even more special about the ones who love you through it all, welcoming each and every version of yourself as you become who you’re here to be.
Because that’s a big piece of what this life is about:
Remembering who we’ve always been at our core.
To know me is to know that I feel very strongly about many things.
I’ll often tear off on passionate ramble rants about the things that matter most to me. I can’t help it. I’ve found my voice, and I intend to use it as often as I can.
The truth is, I was a very shy child.
I didn’t like when people looked at me, let alone tried to engage with me. I was ridiculously soft-spoken and hated having to repeat myself all the time. Extroverts drove me insane with their constant, “you’re so quiet” jokes and remarks because—hot tip!—that doesn’t make us quiet types any more compelled to talk. 🙃
Finding my voice and using it has been a journey in itself.
In middle school, I discovered poetry and writing.
I had the coolest little class with an eccentric teacher who introduced me to the fact that I’m free-spirited and creative for the very first time. She saw me for who I was, and it was everything. We had poetry days and snapped our fingers as classmates read their words. It turned out I had a talent for writing, so I began my short-lived career as an angsty teenage poet. I wrote hundreds of poems about love, belonging, depression, and finding my place that I still hope to publish someday.
The poems turned into longer essays (well before there were blogs), and capturing my feelings and experience in written form became a passion.
One of my first classes in college was speech, and I’m not joking when I tell you I was absolutely devastated when I saw it on my schedule.
Standing up in front of people and talking was my nightmare, as it is for many. It proved even more difficult because of my soft spoken-ness, and I was already feeling so uncomfortable being in a new state at a new school starting my adult life.
But I did it. I not only made it through that class, but I got an A.
It prepared me for an endless string of classes at design school where I would be regularly standing in front of everyone presenting my work and ideas. Throughout those college years, I got better and louder and more steady in myself. And I only improved as I began working as a designer and having to present regularly.
After college, I dated a man who taught me new ways to use my voice.
I’d always struggled to share what was inside my head or weighing on my heart. It was so clear internally; I just couldn’t get it to make sense outside of me. I was scared and frozen, or I’d fumble through my words and end up flustered by the end.
So, one day, this man I loved told me to write him an email.
And in doing so, I started figuring out how to give language to the mess inside of me. I learned to describe feelings and experiences in ways that others could understand. And, over the years, I learned to speak those words with my voice.
And last year, as my core wounds really began to move, I lost my filter.
Or what was left of it. Telling the truth has been vital to my mental and physical health since my loss and trauma, but I still had a bit of a filter. I still kept certain things to myself to keep others comfortable when it didn’t directly impact my health. Last summer, though, I was no longer able to contain my thoughts and feeling inside of me anymore, and I took no issue with naming things for what they were whether or not the people around me wanted to hear it.
“Ouch,” my boyfriend at the time liked to say when I hit him with truth.
But he was always quick to agree I wasn’t being mean; I was just calling things out. That wasn’t something he was used to. I’ve become insanely direct and confronting, but it’s from a place of love. Truth is love, and I see no reason to bite my tongue anymore (though I do believe there’s a right time and place for certain topics).
It’s taken a long time to get to where I am.
So much had to happen along my journey for me to become the person, speaker, and writer I am today.
And while some people find my lack of filter jarring, I love it.
I don’t always say what people want to hear, but I believe I’ve found the balance of delivering the truth with grace. The people who would argue with that are usually the people who don’t want the truth. And that’s okay; they can find someone else to date or be friends with because I’m nothing if not brutally honest.
These days, the words come out before I register what’s happening.
I’m not afraid to use my voice.
I’m not afraid to speak up for what matters.
I’m not afraid to call people out or give words to my feelings and experience.
I’m not afraid to take a strong stand on important topics.
There were many years where I was afraid.
Because of childhood and relationship trauma that taught me it was safest to stay quiet and remain imperceptible. To be agreeable and not rock the boat. That even if I was right about something, it would cost far too much to speak it out loud.
I’m finally feeling more empowered and getting to be myself.
And it feels amazing.
If you’re trying to find your voice, keep going.
Keep pushing your edges and finding your favorite communication styles.
Keep putting yourself in uncomfortable situations like speech classes and networking groups or having hard conversations you think you won’t survive with the people you love. Write crappy first drafts of work the world may never see.
A voice is shaped over time.
And courage is simply acting despite fear.
You’ve got this, and I promise you, the world needs your voice.