Guest Post from Karen Taylor Bass, Panelist, How to Speak Up & What’s Holding You Back Panel at the Speak Up Women Conference
The very thing we are forced to hide, is the very thing that makes us powerful. Words. Voice. Speaking. Confidence. Shine. Have you ever thought about the power you yield when you speak up? Speaking up is very scary, but super liberating when you discover your voice.
I was born in Jamaica, the beautiful island. At a tender age, I remember my mother telling me that children should be seen and not heard. That phrase stayed with me, lingered and festered into a sore. All I can remember is that every time we had company, I wanted to perform for them like all kids. You know – talk, engage, sing, dance, act a fool – simply be heard and seen. But, I couldn’t.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I developed into a meek, insecure, quiet and shy little girl through young adulthood. I grew up uncertain of my voice, gift and power. That was not my mother’s intention, but her mom had probably done the same to her. This was simply generational loving. Oh boy, lucky me.
When I arrived at high school, there was something of an intervention from God via my English teacher. Ms. Borusso challenged me in AP (Advance Placement) English to tap into my power, my voice and speak up. My teacher said, “I want you to learn and embrace your power. I want you to join the drama club, observe and watch other people tap into their power. Then I want you to unleash your emotions on paper by journaling, and lastly, start looking into the mirror speak kindly to yourself.” Needless to say, I didn’t take all of Ms. Borusso’s advice, but I did start journaling. Baby steps.
When I arrived on my college campus, I was still shy, but making a bold move to cut my long hair into a bob gave me an injection of confidence. My haircut was the first decision I made sans my mother’s approval. It’s funny how a small tweak within can become a personal statement. I started to realize that speaking up and advocating for self did not just mean words. Speaking up is looking within and having the guts to take action, pivot and create a movement. I joined the newspaper and TV club, radio station, and the black student organization. Oh yeah, I co-starred in a school production.
It was the culmination of several moments and years at college that I decided that being heard and speaking up was a life and death matter. I truly wanted to be heard (globally) and impact others to get their message out. Becoming a media publicist, author and speaker has allowed me to create, write, communicate and leverage the careers of many A-listers, executives, entrepreneurs and small business owners. The biggest lesson I’ve learned to date is life always gives you clues. Take the time to listen, sit still, journal, reflect and discover what’s holding you back from speaking up.
Tips to Speaking up and finding your authentic voice:
- Time matters. Take daily moments to identify your magic and voice.
- Keep your ears to the ground. It’s always better to listen and learn from others. People will always show and tell you who they are.
- Everyone has an opinion. Listen to what others have to say about you, but never allow others to define you.
- Do something radical. Shake up your image to build inner confidence.
- Open your mouth. You are an expert, start talking up self and build confidence.
- Baby steps. Set realistic goals and commit to them for 30 days, 45, 60, 90 and so forth.
I look forward to meeting you at the Speak Up Women Conference on March 5th at the United Nations and hearing about your experience!