Shawna O’Hagan Morrow header image

Find Your Voice

in Strengths

Let’s just get this out there – I talk a lot!  And anyone who knows me will attest to that, so it’s not a huge surprise.  But I’ve learned that talking a lot and having a voice are two totally different things. I just recently found my voice and now I refuse to be silenced…that was until I was completely out of words.   I uncovered two things that allowed me to find my voice – my strengths and my shame.

Finding my strengths helped me understand my why – why I am the way I am.  I felt so free when I saw my top five character strengths.  I was like “Holy Shit!  That’s so me!!”  It’s crazy that an assessment can be so accurate!

A great coach helped me understand how my strengths show up in my life. This was eye opening and created so much peace for me.  She helped me see where my strengths were lacking and when they were in excess – wow!  Now I have the information I need to manage my strengths (and myself) more effectively.

For example, fairness is my #2 strength and that explains A LOT!  I have a VERY strong reaction when I feel that something isn’t fair.  In the past, I just thought I was a crazy person who got super pissed off about things that other people didn’t seem to care about.  But now I understand why.  Other people may not care about fairness, but I do.  I want to honor my strengths and who I am, so now I will speak up if I feel that they are being violated.

Just in case you’re curious, my character strengths are Gratitude; Fairness, Equity and Justice; Humor; Capacity to Love and be Loved and finally Kindness and Generosity. Now, I have proof that the things that are important to me may not be important to others.  Having this information was a complete game changer for me.  It has allowed me to appreciate myself and others in ways I hadn’t previously considered.   With the freedom and peace came the permission to speak up.  Part one of finding my voice complete.

The next piece to my puzzle was finding my shame.  This was a little more difficult because I didn’t even know I was feeling shame.  That’s what shame does…it’s a sneaky silent odorless killer that robs you of joy.  I had no idea that this joy killer was lurking within me until I found Brené Brown’s work on shame.  And it all clicked into place.  I immediately found the name for that awful feeling I’ve had for far too long – SHAME.  Shame has two tracks – “Not good enough” and “Who do you think you are?”  OH MY GOD!!!  I’ve been playing the “Not good enough” track on repeat for YEARS!  I didn’t speak up because I didn’t feel like I was good enough or my ideas, thoughts or comments were good enough.  I feared what other people would think – would they not agree or not like it or not like me or be mad at me or be offended or I don’t even know what else.  I had a million reasons to keep quiet.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have had plenty of opinions over the years.  But, I didn’t voice my opinions about important things.  If someone asked me what kind of pizza I preferred or what my favorite Real Housewives show was, I would tell them it’s cheese and New Jersey all the way.  But I’m talking about really important things like people hurting my feelings or treating me disrespectfully or unfairly.  I wouldn’t say anything.  I would suffer in silence – feeling bad and staying silent about it.

Well, that’s all about to change.

So now that I am armed with my character strengths – why I am the way I am and I’m recognizing shame everywhere in my world – I have found my true voice and I want to use it, much to the annoyance of others.  You see, people have gotten used to me “being quiet”, if you will – not rocking the boat, keeping my unhappiness or opinions about the injustices of the world to myself or only voicing them to my very close inner circle.   That’s just not good enough for me anymore.

To find my voice I had to be willing to be vulnerable.  To be vulnerable is being willing to be seen for who you are and what you stand for.  Thank you Brené Brown for yet another fantastic Ted Talk that changed my life.  In the past, I didn’t feel like I was good enough to speak up.  I have now realized that I am.  I am worthy and I have valuable things to contribute.

I’m not afraid anymore.  I’m not afraid that someone won’t like me or not like what I said.  I’m not being mean or inappropriate.  I’m simply speaking my mind and voicing my opinion in a respectful and appropriate manner.  No one can fault me for that.  Well, they can try, but I don’t have to take it or wear it.  That’s their problem, not mine (or yours) if they don’t like it.  So, when I was recently faced with an unfair situation, I spoke up!  I was so proud that I was able say that I was unhappy with the situation and I continued to advocate for fairness.  Over and over again.  They were not seeing my point of view – but I pressed on…voicing my opposition.  I advocated for myself, like I never have before and they still couldn’t see my point.  That’s when it happened…I had done so much talking, advocating and lobbying that I ran out of words.  It took 41 years and a few months, but it actually happened.  I ran out of things to say.

Some people will try to silence you, don’t let them.  Some people will not stand up with you, that’s ok.  You can stand on your own.  Your voice is powerful and your opinion matters.  Some people will try to make you feel small – those are their issues not yours.

Just because nothing changes (that you can see) doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth it.  It’s always worth it.  You can be proud that you stood up for an injustice or righted a wrong or had a voice when someone else didn’t.

Finding my strengths and shame was such a powerful experience for me – it’s inspired me to help others do the same.

So why do you keep quiet?  Why do you not speak up?  What’s holding you back?

If you sit in silence you give the false impression that things are acceptable.  Speak up and voice your opinion on things that are not right!!  You may not change anything, but at least you stood up.  Be proud of that!

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