”I’m speaking.” A phrase made famous during the vice presidential debate by Senator Kamala Harris. A phrase that has taken on a life of its own in memes, jokes, banter, and comebacks. I’ve thought a lot about that phrase.
To be honest, it made me both a tad uncomfortable and yet impressed when Ms. Harris said it. The discomfort got me thinking. Why did I react that way?
I’ve spent a considerable amount of time giving voice to the needs and concerns of other people — family, neighbors, my clients. Yet, I have generally found it an uncomfortable thing to do so. I find that I must intentionally push myself beyond my regular place of comfort to speak up, to ruffle feathers, or to challenge the status quo.
My rearing may have something to do with it. I was raised in a culture where honor and respect are deeply valued. There is customarily no pushback for the elders and authorities. That is changing to an extent. Yet, as a younger person, I learned the old school rules quite well, and I stayed out of trouble. I remained quiet. I kept within the lines.
As a result, it has taken me longer to be comfortable with speaking out, particularly for myself. Even more challenging for me has been not apologizing for speaking. And being alright with reiterating my ideas, desires, needs, thoughts when I sense I’m not being heard, or when other voices are drowning out my own. Saying hard or truthful things takes a lot of guts for me.
Some things are very difficult to unlearn.
And the unlearning comes at a cost sometimes. But, I have committed to unlearning the unprofitable things. With God’s strength, I am growing day by day as a stronger advocate for others. For my children. And thankfully for me. I am learning to placate less and to use kindness coupled with confidence and assertiveness more when I speak.
“I’m speaking” is not a phrase with which I need to be uncomfortable. In the smallest of ways, it honors the person I was created to be, with things to say that matter (or perhaps don’t matter but still should have space to be spoken without shame or fear). In the greatest of ways, it may compel others to listen and consider what I am offering through spoken words, words that can encourage, comfort, rally, teach, correct, help, and mend.
So, from here on out, I’m speaking.