Growing up as a refugee from a European country, an immigrant in a North African country and the youngest of three daughters, I was very lucky to have forward thinking parents who valued education and instilled in me that I could do anything I wanted in life: learn, travel, lead.
My sisters and I were brought up against all odds: our family had to flee a war-torn country as refugees and land in another as immigrants. My parents taught us that being girls, refugees or immigrants didn’t matter. What mattered were education, integrity, hard work and gratitude. There was no corner cutting, just path carving. I learned to carve where there was no path, and plow ahead. My father taught me to “look up, stand up and speak up.” And somewhere during the path carving, I realized that I had found my voice. Perhaps these three tips could be of value. Here they are:
Marcel Proust said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Do you agree? I do. Look up and see the world, your world with new eyes. The more you know about the issues of your world and where you stand on them, the more confident you will be. Look up means literally and figuratively looking up from your laptop, tablet and phone, and facing yourself, your colleagues, your team members and the world.
You can start by looking up in the mirror and facing yourself every morning as you brush your teeth. Looking up opens you up to the world and your ability to take it in. Look up and see the world around you. Figure out what you like. Figure out what makes you happy and what empowers your spirit. Figure out what you don’t agree with. Work to change what you don’t like. So, look up (and don’t forget to smile)!
Winston Churchill said, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” Makes sense to me, how about you? Finding voice means you will be standing up a lot, both figuratively and literally. How? You need to stand up for issues that are important to the greater good. You need to stand up for people who need help, guidance and support. You need to stand up for team leaders, community leaders, government leaders that need followers to get the job done. If you agree with their premise, stand up and support them. As a leader yourself, you need to stand up and deliver. If you read up on the issues, and look up to see how are they handled, it will become easier for you to stand up.
Martin Luther King Jr. said “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” I believe this quote bears a lot of truth, but it is not easy. Finding your voice means that you must speak up for the things and people that matter. Speak up to support what you agree with or voice your opinion and alternative solution to what you disagree with.
If speaking in public is intimidating, fear not: strengthen your speaking skills by joining a Toastmasters Club near you. It is a not-for-profit specializing in communication and leadership development. Speaking implies communicating, so you also need to practice your listening skills as you get ready to speak up. Today, your generation has unparalleled access to information and knowledge which translates to unparalleled power and potential. You can also speak up by blogging, writing articles, “leaning in” and sharing your ideas with your friends, colleagues, and fellow local and global citizens through twitter and other social media.
So, dispel your fears and look up, stand up and speak up. Listen to your inner voice and let it be heard. Your personal growth and, yes, societal growth depends on it!
What else can you do to find your voice?