by Cherise Holt, Nurse, Australia
In the past I listened as my relatives described me as a girl who could ‘talk under wet cement’, meaning I was Little Miss Chatterbox. I know that I was a lovely, gentle little girl who could chat to anyone and I can see that this was their observation based on the huge change in me. Throughout primary and high school I had become very quiet and shy.
Inside I felt hurt and defensive by this comment, like I was somehow less than I used to be, and I had created my own story to back up the reasons for my change. I had taken on responsibility for others from a very young age and I began to think that a part of being responsible was keeping your worries to yourself. I was internalising my own worries whilst taking on those of others.
My school report cards began to describe me as ‘reserved’; a word that felt hurtful and that I allowed to stick with me for a long time. To me this word meant that I was not being myself, so when adults were labelling me as this, a part of me gave up on being anything more. When I was young I had noticed others got annoyed by my giggles and talking. I once got in trouble for whistling in class so I began to hush and measure my own voice.
At age eleven on holidays, my grandfather passed away suddenly. I was far away from my parents and to be honest, I can barely remember uttering a word. I felt the grief and sadness, and I struggled to express this with others. A part of me thought that I needed to be responsible and hold myself together, and another part didn’t know how to express the hurt I was feeling. This had become a big part in my life that best described, for me, how and why I had stopped talking.
By high school it felt like I had forgotten how to speak around people I didn’t know, and the anxiety that came with class presentations or speeches and group work was always highly stressful. My heart would be racing. But something else was now coming into play – when I did speak it required some sort of trying or a push behind it. I felt like I had to talk, and I thought what I had to say needed to sound right.
At sixteen I allowed a guy to make me feel even more insecure about what I had to say. I felt bullied as he would say things like ‘don’t you ever speak’ in an aggressive tone, and a friend said to me ‘just scream one time; I just want to hear you yell’. This was something I believed that other people must surely be thinking about me, too. The pressure to speak felt so heavy that I was choosing to do the opposite.
I was analysing every word I would say before it left my mouth: I would say what I thought was right, and if I didn’t think it was perfect I would hold back and say nothing. When I did speak I would analyse it later, pick it to pieces about what I should have said differently. I know my Dad could feel how hard on myself I was being; he would comment ‘don’t worry, it’s the empty vessels that make the most noise’. It was his way of saying, you don’t have to be loud or talk a lot, or be like anyone else.
In my twenties I believed I was lacking in confidence, so I searched outside for courses or assistance in finding it. But what I found was Universal Medicine – and presented to me was the fact that true confidence is already within me. It is about allowing me to just be, finding and honouring my own way of expressing.
There is something quite similar in the way that I spoke as a little girl and in the way I speak now as a woman – simplicity.
For me it lies in the connection to myself, whether I stop to feel my own heart beating, my lungs expanding or my gentle breath. I can actually feel if I have something to say or not, and that there is a way of speaking that is my way.
If someone is talking loud or fast I can tell if I am trying to keep up with them… my body becomes tense and my voice strained or louder than feels natural. I have held back from speaking up because I know someone else is louder and I would have to contend to be heard. But the feeling I now have is trust in what I have to share; it is too great to not find my own way to express it.
I can feel if someone else needs me to speak – for their comfort perhaps, or for me to respond with a comment they want to hear. But there is also an absolute feeling that it is okay if I choose not to speak or say much. It is not a way of holding back or not being myself – on the contrary, it is an honouring of me and what is right for me in the moment.
I have been hard on myself for a long time, analysing my words and adding complexity to life. Creating my own beliefs of how I should speak based on my perception of other’s views and comparison of other people. But I know there can’t be any hardness when you speak from within yourself, where you don’t hold all the right and wrong beliefs of how it needs to happen.
It is a progress of allowing me to just be, connecting to myself in a moment and feeling what I want to express. It’s letting go of the control I once wielded over my voice and discovering that not only do I feel like I have quite a lot to say, but that I am also giving myself the permission to express it, however it feels right for me.