J2SI//Part II: Reclaiming My Voice: Speaking Up
I love singing. As a kid I was always humming a tune and was never really afraid of expressing whatever music channeled through me. I participated heavily in choir for eight years through elementary, middle, and high school. I was confident in my voice and took great pride in the joy and accomplishment I felt after learning music and performing it. Learning new music was exciting; as I was learning choral music I was also being indoctrinated with new and old, sometimes underground music, by my older brother. I often envisioned myself someday performing my own music.
I also love speaking. Not just to hear my own voice, but I learned early on how to speak clearly, intentionally, and confidently. Public speaking came easily to me and in some way or another, I was often in "entertainment" mode. I didn't get in trouble much, but when I did it was usually for talking and joking in excess. I had a comment for everything. Erin and I actually became friends as a result of this trait. Our Pre-Algebra teacher hated us for talking and making jokes all period. Being social was always important to me and because of it I had many friends from varying groups. I prided myself too on my ability to make and keep friends and loved the variety in people's individuality.
But falling into a relationship under naivety and the guise of love killed that social skill. Due to his jealousy, insecurity, and general need to control everything, I was not allowed to have friends. I was torn from my family and anyone who really knew me- I was a prop in a stage set by him. It didn't happen easily, but my voice was one of the first things to go. I stopped singing, I stopped listening to music I liked, stopped searching for new artists I might like, because I felt hopelessly entrapped by his commanding hand.
I remember when it was the end- I was driving home from school (college) and started listening to music. I'd discovered a band and fell in love with their music. (Freelance Whales; at the time it was what I needed to push me out of my rut.) I was enjoying the time alone, driving and listening to new music and I delayed going home; I just kept driving, loving the freedom I felt when it was just me and music. I realized I hadn't sung in years- not like I used to in choir for the 8 years prior- and I was not in tune with music I liked. I had been put down for my music choices in this relationship and we only listened to the shitty rap and pop music he wanted to listen to. I remember thinking, "what's more important- my relationship with music or him?" and distinctly feeling that I was far more in love with music than him.
Ignoring my innate ability and joy of speaking and singing deprived me of foundational growth. Having my voice silenced devalued me as a person and took away any meaning I felt in my days. I was not suicidal in the relationship, but I distinctly remember thinking that if I were to get pregnant by him or somehow otherwise be permanently tied to him, that I wouldn't be able to pursue a life that I wanted and that it wouldn't be far off in the future if I stayed. My opinions weren't worthwhile and soon became replaced by someone else's objective. My cause was not of concern. What made me unique, special, strong and capable was ignored, silenced, stifled, and diminished. By getting out, I reclaimed my voice and by proxy my life.
I hadn't sung for pleasure in years. One of the things that strengthened me after leaving that situation and starting over was singing karaoke. The casual and carefree atmosphere, the freedom to fail and have fun was liberating. I wasn't insecure about the quality of my voice but I was out of practice and nervous to be in front of people again. I had lost the connection. All it took to get it back, I realized, was activating it. I just had to do it again. Consciously deciding to give myself the space to think freely allowed me to develop into my potential. It took awhile to gain the confidence in myself, but it developed with every step I took in the direction of my interests.
Once I had my voice back I had to use it. I had to relearn how to stand up for myself and hold my ground. I had to tell myself I was worth being happy, worth living my best life, worth standing up for what I believed in. I started making friends with other people who spoke up and were not afraid to have their voices heard. Where I used to shy away from conflict before in the interest of keeping peace, I now face bigotry square in eyes. I have no patience for oppressive behavior. I have no space for people who talk down, degrade, diminish, manipulate, lie, or use charm to weasel their way into places they are undesired. I am over the entitlement people think they have over other people's minds and bodies.
I'm still working on translating my experiences, but this is how it started. Getting out of a toxic situation granted me the freedom to make up my mind and reconnect with my own truth. In a lot of ways I'm still reclaiming my voice. Sometimes it's hard to speak up. Sometimes it's hard to say out loud what you know will be faced with controversy. But the feeling of free speech is so much more rewarding than upholding someone else's desires out of fear. When my thoughts bottleneck at my throat, choking the airflow, I know it's time to let them go. I cannot keep them inside me anymore. I cannot be poisoned by the stagnancy of words unspoken. I am empowered by my voice. My freedom as a human lies in my ability to freely think and feel what I want, and express those in ways that I deem appropriate.
A basic definition of "gaslight" is to manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity. This may include: silencing, accusations of "misremembering", or changing the story altogether through blatant lies. It is absolutely exhausting to deal with an abuser that uses gaslighting. It's hard to know what is ever true, down to your own reality. It's rooted in narcissism and has less to do with the victim receiving the abuse than the abuser projecting themselves onto the victim.
Well guess what
I'm tired of being quiet
I'm tired of dumbing down or sugar coating my response so that someone doesn't get offended
I'm tired of fighting to convince someone of something that I know happened, that they're denying
I'm tired of questioning my sanity when I know I'm not the crazy one
I'm tired of justifying narcissistic behavior
Tired of stroking their ego
They don't need my support
Preying on the weak
Society teaches us to be cordial, polite, smile, listen quietly, and don't ruffle feathers. I went to fashion school precisely to ruffle feathers. I'm not afraid of speaking up when I don't agree with what's happening. I'm not afraid to have my voice heard. I'm not afraid of hurting someone's feelings when I can't get that respect reciprocated.
You don't have to listen, but you can't turn me down. I will not be silenced. I will not be told that what I think is wrong. I will not alter my reactions to appease the feelings of a manipulator. My mind is not up for molding. My voice is not up for robbing. Dissect it if you must, but don't expect me to alter it based on your opinion. My voice is my own and it deserves to be heard. I have independent thoughts.
When you're used to shutting up, holding back, and apologizing (for everything), it seems hard to think you're allowed out of that. Listen up: you are allowed out. You don't have to silence yourself just because someone else can't handle it. Speak your mind. Speak it clearly and with confidence. Run away from people who do not support you. Run away from people who are jealous, who can't handle your success at living.
To be silenced is one thing
To stay silenced is another.
You have the power to speak up.
You deserve to speak your truth.