The Empowerment of Being Seen, Heard and
Speaking for Yourself
December 6, 2018
I have been percolating several thoughts and wanting to write a blog about a visit from a close friend, recently. This has morphed into a little more. I will be weaving these themes of “Being Seen”, “Being Heard (and the art of listening)” and “Speak For Yourself” together here. My heartfelt hope is that it will remind me to do these things and it will empower you too.
Being seen, being recognized, and acknowledgement is something that I have struggled with throughout my life. As a child, my mother told me to speak up and I did, but I am not sure my volume improved the quality of the listening or actually being seen. A recent visit from a dear friend showed me the value of having another person really and truly see me. I hadn’t seen this friend in awhile and we were catching up. She wanted to see my art studio and what I was working on. As we were chatting in the studio, she casually picked up a piece of discarded scrap and said, “I love this piece.” I said, “take it. It’s yours.” What opened after that was a spiral of recognition that was surprising. My friend left, and I continued to hear her voice remark on the beauty of the scrap piece of paper from a long-completed piece of art. When she acknowledged my work in the discarded piece, I felt truly seen. There is a way that few show up in the world. My friend shows up. She allows life to move her, to experience and be present. Add a dash of loving friendship and pow! Connection, understanding and a safe place to be 100% yourself.
Most of us walk through this world looking for the place to fit in, to be a part of something. I know I do. I think, we move away from being our true selves because we are not receiving the acknowledgement, encouragement and understanding we are starving for. There are so many ways our society disempowers us, AND we let it. There is a false sense of empowerment work out there that actually takes your power away. We are so hungry to belong, to fit in and be a part of something greater, that we let the societal “norms” classify us out of our individuality. Have you ever been in conversation and someone said, “we as women” or “we as white women (women of color)” or “we as mothers”, or “we as massage therapist” or “we as Christians (Jews, Atheists)” or “we as men” or “we as democrats (or republicans or liberals)”? When you ALLOW someone else to speak FOR you…POOF, they take your power. This is so ingrained in the language used, that it is slowly sucking the power away from being the individual, each person is meant to be. Now mind you, there may be a common feeling, thought, understanding or perspective in what the person is saying, AND I challenge you, dear reader, to get this response into your head…”PLEASE DO NOT SPEAK FOR ME!” You may have a similar experience, understanding or perspective and yet, no one can have the exact experience you do. The funny place this shows up is in workshops for empowerment. Are the presenters even aware of this transgression? And it is an assault, especially if you are selling the idea of empowering another person or group. The person getting the power is the presenter…he/she is creating sheep!
Words are powerful! Who and what is listening? When language is used, not only the conscious mind is listening, but the subconscious mind AND the collective mind. A simple practice is two-fold: “Please don’t speak for me,” claims your power as the listener AND “I, as a mother, feel…”, “I, as a massage therapist, feel…” or “I, as a white woman, feel…” you get the idea. I am still sharing my perspective that is from my personal place of being. The “I” statement brings the power. Expressing the how you feel, in honest sharing, creates union and respect for speaking your truth. The “We as…” statements, if I don’t agree with that perspective generates the “shoulding” on myself, as in “I should feel that way as a white woman.” That may be true, AND it may not be true.
Whose responsibility is it to be listened to? To be heard? I cannot make someone listen to me, much less truly hear me. I CAN listen and hear myself. I can speak with integrity. I can speak from the heart with clarity, owning my perspective and bringing my experience to the table. That is empowerment! This may sound like an oxymoron, if I listen to myself as I want to be listened to by others, if I support and empower myself as I want or expect others to support and empower me, if I speak for myself…others will eventually stop speaking for me. AND if they don’t stop pulling me into the “we the…” talk, I need to tell them to STOP speaking for me!
Coming back to my friend’s simple comment about my piece of scrap, she is 100% authentic in her listening, speaking and she invites me to be that too. I hope I do the same for her and others in my life. It is an interesting place we live in. I feel that the illusion of connection has been created by technology. It appears that we are closer with friends and family because of social media. And yet, I feel we are further away from authentic connections, conversations and understanding. Why have a conversation when it is much simpler to say it with a MEME or Bitmoji? I challenge you to speak, listen and hear others as you want to be heard, listened to and empowered…This quiet possibly could change the world!
Beth is a candid presenter and teacher. She is available to speak for your small groups or create a workshop that is right for your organization. Contact Beth for more information and rates.