There is a line in Natalie Goldberg’s book Writing Down the Bones that is especially meaningful to me: “I write because I kept my mouth shut all my life….” It is meaningful because there have been many times, too many times, too many situations in which I stayed silent when really I needed to speak up. To speak up for my needs, my safety, my desires, my boundaries, my feelings. To stand up for myself.

You, too?

Have you kept quiet when really you needed to stand up for yourself? Maybe you stayed quiet at work. For years. Maybe you stayed quiet with friends, not expressing everything from where you wanted to eat to when they hurt your feelings. Maybe you stayed quiet with a partner, agreeing to it all so you wouldn’t spark a fight.

If you’ve kept your mouth shut your entire life, or for a few years, or in a certain relationship, or lately, start writing. Start using your voice. Start acting like your voice is important. Because, of course, it is. Your voice is how you navigate the world. It is how you care for yourself.

These fill-in-the-blank prompts can get you started on using your voice, on writing down your heart:

  • I kept my mouth shut about______________. And I forgive myself.
  • When I stayed quiet in that relationship, what I really wanted to say was ______________.
  • I need to tell ___________ that I really want _____________.
  • I will typically say no to ___________ and _________ and __________ because ______________.
  • I absolutely love___________ and _________ and __________.
  • Today, I will speak up about ___________ and _________.
  • Today, my needs are ___________ and _________ and __________.
  • I once lied about __________ because I feared being judged, criticized, rejected.
  • I usually have a hard time standing up for myself when ____________. Which is why I’m going to work on this by ___________.
  • It’s vital that I speak up for myself because _____________________.

Express yourself in writing. Because it helps you discover, prioritize and better understand your needs, thoughts, feelings, desires, dreams. After you self-reflect on paper, practice speaking up aloud. Just because you were once silent doesn’t mean you must remain mute. It doesn’t mean you will be silent, again. You can speak up at anytime. You can shatter your silence, and say what you need.

Remember, you are in charge of your voice. And it is powerful.

Have you stayed quiet? What do you want to express? 

Photo by Natalie Collins.