There are a lot of concepts that I have learned during my 21 years on this earth. Some, I find more important than others, more meaningful, and this is one of those concepts.
Growing up, I was extremely shy. If you walked into a crowded room, you would likely find me sitting somewhere, observing everything occurring around me. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy talking to people. I simply had nothing to say. I was an observer. I enjoyed taking in everything happening around me, and striking up a conversation with someone made me miss out on my surroundings.
I acted in this manner until I got my first job: Panera Bread. I started out as a cashier, so I was forced to talk to people. Forced to make conversation with people I had never met before, and people I would likely never see again. At first, it was terrifying, but I am so unbelievably happy that I was put into that situation because it changed me forever.
I now have the greatest weapon I could ever obtain: my voice.
It’s always been there. Deep down. Yet, I never used its power, and once I began to, I couldn’t believe how useful it actually was. You just have to know how to use it.
When you speak, and I mean really speak, people listen. There is a craft, an art, in projecting your voice and commanding a room of people to listen to what you have to say. I realized I had this craft, unknowingly, in the final days of my senior year of high school.
One of my final assignments in my English class was to write two letters: one to your future self, and one to someone in the class. When we finished the letters, we gave one to the corresponding classmate, and the other to our teacher, Mr. Smith. In return, Mr. Smith gave us each a personalized letter that he had written to every single one of us. His only condition was that we read these notes outside of the classroom.
As soon as I got out of the classroom, I ripped open my letter from Mr. Smith. Amidst all of the words, there was one line that caught my eye. One line that stuck with me to this day:
“I know you don’t like when people tell you you are quiet, but when you talk, everyone listens…”
He was right, I’m quiet at times, and I hated when people mentioned it, but under no circumstances did I believe that people wholeheartedly listened to me when I said something. Until that moment, I had not harnessed the power of my voice. I did not use it to its full ability, and I was determined to change that.
I realized I had this power, this weapon, to defend and aid myself. I no longer hesitate when someone is doing or saying something around me that makes me uncomfortable, angry, or uneasy. I say what’s on my mind, and I voice my opinion without being sheepish. I no longer feel vulnerable and powerless. I feel empowered.
I will always have my voice. I will take pride in commanding a room and having everyone listen to me. I have words, thoughts, and opinions that I can share with people. This is my power. This is everyone’s power, and it can never be taken away from us. Use it.