7 Signs that You Have a Shushed Voice

Our voice is an expression of who we are, and yet it is often neglected and overlooked.

As young women we receive limiting messages about the value of our voice and what we are capable of in the world. These quiet, unspoken messages become the voices we hear in our head, which block us from using our external voice. This is the “shushed voice.”

Our inner child carries these invisible patterns into adulthood. We become afraid to use our voice out of fear that someone will shame or shush us. We stay small and quiet to avoid displeasing others, often putting ourselves on mute to stay “safe”.

There are many ways that these patterns can manifest into our everyday life. Here are the top seven symptoms I would recommend to look out for.

  1. You are constantly saying “Sorry”

How many times a day do you say the word “sorry” when you ask a question, bump up against someone, or feel like you speak out of turn? Often this is an autopilot response and the word slips out of our mouth before we even know what happened. Growing up in England where I was always taught to be polite – and being confident or assertive was considered crass – I found myself saying “Sorry” constantly. Simply becoming aware of the pattern will help you to change it. The next time you find yourself saying “Sorry”, ask yourself how you could have responded differently.

  1. You are afraid to ask important questions

One of the times we often say “sorry” is when we think we are asking a stupid question. Sometimes we are so afraid to ask the question that we never even ask it. This happens in all arenas of life – in the workplace, in the classroom, even within our own families. The reality is that the questions you never ask are often the most important ones. By putting yourself on mute you deny yourself what you truly need. On a collective level, our questions challenge what is unjust and untrue. With so many of the world’s problems on our doorstep, streaming through our TVs and social media feeds, the world truly needs us to challenge the status quo by asking questions.

  1. When you get in an argument, you have no idea why it happened

This tends to happen when someone triggers an uncomfortable emotion inside of us and we jump into a full throttle reaction. Usually we get triggered because of something “bad” that happened in the past which has nothing to do with the present moment, so when the argument is finished we wonder why it even happened. The argument is a symptom of being disconnected from ourselves because we have “shushed” the inner voices that tell us why we are getting triggered. It’s like stumbling through life without a compass or map. The worst part is that this affects the people around us and leaves us feeling regretful of the things we say. Learning to recognize when we are getting triggered helps us to pause and then respond instead of react.

  1. You feel like no one ever listens to you

As an adolescent, I remember trying to use my voice but often someone would talk over me or completely misunderstand what I was trying to say. I believed that no one ever listened to me because I was not worthy of being listening to – a belief I carried into adulthood. I rarely shared my feelings with others and often put my voice on mute, all the while searching for validation. In our culture, we are conditioned to believe that we must strive to succeed, look good, act a certain way, and please others so they will validate us. Our conversations carry a hidden agenda because we are dependant on the opinions of others. Under our words we are unconsciously saying “Am I okay?” which often makes our communication very unclear! When we release our need for validation by trusting our inner guidance, we are free to express ourselves clearly in the world. The next time you feel like no one is listening to you, ask yourself if this is true (and sometimes it is) or if you have a hidden agenda that is making your communication unclear.

  1. You have a hard time accepting compliments

On the other side of the coin, when someone does listen to us, see us, and give us a compliment, we have a hard time receiving their affections. We are conditioned to feel like we are “tooting our own horn” if we agree that we are good at something, so we pass off the compliment without ever letting it in. This catch 22 – of needing validation but never allowing ourselves to be validated – is an epidemic that has kept women playing small for centuries. I love the quote, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” Accepting compliments and standing in our power is revolutionary. The next time someone gives you a compliment, say “Thank you” and receive their words fully.

  1. You often say ‘Yes’ to things when you really mean ‘No’

Women are still the primary caregivers in our culture and many of us are conditioned to give endlessly without question. This mentality often starts at a young age when our parents rely on us to be the emotional caregivers of the family (what Bethany Webster called the “Parentified Daughter”). Our automatic response is to say “Yes” to everyone and everything until we become completely depleted. Many of us did not grow up hearing women say “No” in a calm, empowered way. This pattern has been passed down for generations. The next time you are alone and in front of a mirror, look yourself in the eye and practice saying “No”.

  1. You are constantly people pleasing and putting yourself last

When we say “Yes” in order to please others, we are internally saying “No” to ourselves and the things we truly want in life. Being in touch with our needs and desires is difficult when we are taught to shy away from our authentic selves and what gives us pleasure. What are your beliefs and feelings about pleasure? Putting yourself first means allowing yourself to experience pleasure and meet your own needs instead of relying on the validation of others. This is the most empowering thing we can do because we say “Yes” to ourselves and to life itself. Practice saying “Yes” to something you truly want this week.

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