Speak Your Mind, Even if Your Voice Shakes

by Katy on June 27, 2014 · 31 comments

Speak Your Mind Even If Your Voice Shakes
Although I’m far from ever being labeled as “shy,” I still have to gather my courage before speaking up for myself. Why? I think it’s simply human nature to want to smooth things over and not make waves.

I look back on times and events that I regret in my life, and I mostly identify when I did not speak up for myself or my children. The fourth grade teacher who was consistently negative and oddly punitive towards my son. I once asked her if she had anything positive to say about my son, and she simply stared me down without saying a word. All the other parents said she was “a great teacher, if you have a girl.” (Just writing about it makes me white hot with rage!) And by the way, her main complaint about my son was that he wiggled in his seat and looked out the window.

But I’m older and wiser now, and realize that addressing the issues with the teacher was a battle I should have chosen. But at the time, I feared she would be even worse to my son if I confronted her with my concerns. I deeply regret this.

Luckily, my current life is pretty smooth, although there still seem to be times when I have to take a deep breath, gather my courage and speak my mind.

I went in for my annual work evaluation yesterday. The paperwork goes into my human resources file, and is as close to that dreaded permanent record as is likely at this phase of my life. Although I’ve been in the same hospital-based RN job for 19 years, these meetings always give me a case of the jitters. I sat down and noticed that I was being being marked as having “met” rather than “exceeded” at my job. And although “met” is considered perfectly acceptable, I felt the need to speak up.

I explained to my boss, (who is kept busy with meetings, and doesn’t ever see me in action) that I felt that I earned the “exceeded” label. That I hold myself to a very high standard, that I work to support a positive work environment and that I try to be the nurse I wish I was working with. She listened to what I said, and then changed my rating.

It made me nervous to speak up for myself, but I did it anyway.

And this morning, I sat down to read through my e-mails, and sent out three very carefully worded e-mails that I would have much preferred to procrastinate or simply delete. Emails that required me to bypass my natural inclination to shy away from sticking up for myself. But because they were in written form, none will be the wiser that my voice was shaking; but yes, it was.

I often think of the popular bumper sticker quoting grey panther Maggie Kuhn, encouraging people to “Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.” (I know that anything translated to a bumper sticker format immediately becomes trite, but I find inspiration in it anyway.)

How does this relate to non-consumerism?

By choosing a less traditional life, there are inevitable uncomfortable conversations. Whether it’s telling a family member that you want to tone down Christmas or simply declining expensive invitations. Or even just living a simple life that sometimes does require you to explain your decisions, even when it’s no one’s business but your own.

So please non-consumers, speak your mind. Even if your voice shakes.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Sandy June 27, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Amen to that. I could not agree with you more.


Maureen June 27, 2014 at 3:39 pm

This was so helpful, today, right now. Thank you


Pam June 27, 2014 at 3:44 pm

I actually did this today. I requested a meeting with my boss and had a very long conversation. It wasn’t easy when I started but it got easier as we kept the dialogue going. I felt so much better – and wondered why I hadn’t done this before.


Carla June 27, 2014 at 3:48 pm

This was *exactly* what I needed to hear today. Thank you.


Sharon H. June 27, 2014 at 3:49 pm

I’m proud of you, Katy. I really am.


Katy June 27, 2014 at 6:58 pm

Aww, thank you.


Su Mama June 27, 2014 at 4:13 pm

Beautifully put, and such an important message. I have a pewter angel, a gift years ago from my dear sister-in-law and friend, that I take down and look at from time to time. It’s engraved with a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”


Juli June 27, 2014 at 5:36 pm

On all counts– advocating for your son, for yourself. YES.
Well done.


Lisa June 27, 2014 at 7:45 pm

I had to confront one of my daughter’s teachers this year. I abhor confrontation and have to be pushed really far to get to that point. I was physically ill beforehand and my daughter was furious, but it had to be done. Sometimes the power balance is way out of whack and needs to be evened up. Honestly, when I get to that point my Scots-Irish ancestry really rears its head. Can you say Hatfields and McCoys?
(The best part was that my daughter wasn’t mad after the fact.) I only wish I had of done it earlier.


kathleen June 27, 2014 at 8:09 pm

Oh my goodness, I HATE job evaluations. SO very impressed with your response to being under rated. I once had a review where my supervisor told me, ‘I expect excellence…therefore you ‘MEET my EXPECTATIONS.’ Oh, well then, thank you? So I was stuck with that rating on my job record. It still burns my biscuits!


Jennifer June 27, 2014 at 8:21 pm

Good for you! My voice shook every time I’ve ever had to speak up for myself. Sometimes from anger, sometimes from nervousness. I, too, usually have to be pushed very far to say anything at all. Fortunately, my manager knows this about me, so she knows if I have any concerns they are truly a problem. I have not had to speak up for either of the kids yet. I know when the time comes it will be difficult, but I will do it just the same.


Mary June 27, 2014 at 9:13 pm

Oh, yeah, I know this song. I’m a smoothing over, avoiding confrontation type myself, but every once in a while a situation arises that I know has to be dealt with assertively.

So, I square my shoulders and say: “OK, now is the time to do Exxon’s version of oil on the water.” It doesn’t actually make much sense as a phrase, but somehow I always feel braver after I’ve said it.


JJ June 28, 2014 at 4:37 am

Great post! Been in the same situation with my sons teacher as well. Thank you for the reminder… I will continue to speak my mind, even if my voice shakes!


K D June 28, 2014 at 11:50 am

A great post. I do believe it gets easier (but not easy) with experience. It pains me to see teens (and adults) so afraid of things they could do something about if they would speak up. Unfortunately, many people like to complain about unfairness rather than deal with it in a constructive way.


Cee June 28, 2014 at 12:57 pm

Thank you. Add me to the long list of people who needed to hear this right now! It’s also a good reminder to me that everyone goes through this, and that I need to extend grace to others.


A. Marie June 28, 2014 at 2:19 pm

I just had to initiate kicking a neighbor (who is apparently going over the edge, for whatever reason) off the street email listserv for profanity and personal attacks. We are all now bracing for the repercussions. But my only regret is that we didn’t do it sooner.


Chris June 28, 2014 at 5:11 pm

Good for you! I had to do this at school – awkward, but ultimately, it’s worth it for the kids’ sake. It’s even harder at work because you have to be there every day!


Madeline June 28, 2014 at 8:05 pm

PROUD. Good for you! Admin who don’t even see us on the job! Well, so glad you spoke up!!


You go ,Katie!!!!


Diane June 29, 2014 at 4:13 am

Thank you. Now 70, I find it very important to speak my mind. I am much more quick to tell my family and friends how much they mean to me and say I love you. And I am also now speaking the truth about my precarious state of being financially and my need to put most of my resources and energy into paying off my debt and being able to stay in my home. That means sacrificing a lot of what many people feel is important, such as not traveling. Few understand this no matter how often I try to explain.


JD June 30, 2014 at 5:24 am

I can’t stand confrontation either, and I have times I regret so much when I didn’t speak up and should have. Not to make a “bashing teachers” trend (much of my family is in education), but I was so proud of my usually shy oldest daughter when she was in 5th grade; her teacher sent home a spelling list with a couple of misspelled words on it. I asked my daughter if she wanted me to go to the teacher or if she wanted to do it, and she said she would — and did! She carried a little dictionary to class, was very polite as I had told her to be, and said that her mother noticed some words that weren’t correct and pointed them out in the dictionary. The teacher handed out corrected lists — yes, this happened more than once in this class — and didn’t come down on my daughter at all. The teacher finally must have started looking up all the words first — I saw no more errors after the second time. I never would have had that courage in fifth grade.


Katy June 30, 2014 at 7:11 am

You have a very impressive daughter!



Monica June 30, 2014 at 9:00 am

Good for you Katy! You would have stewed for too long had you not spoken up in your evaluation. Women, especially, must always fight a little harder for what we deserve, here in the U.S., otherwise, things will never change. We must BELIEVE that we deserve better and GO FOR IT!


Katy July 1, 2014 at 6:56 am

Damn straight!


Pat June 30, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Thank you for this post. I feel the same way.
I have already sent one e-mail out this morning expressing my displeasure with one business. I did so politely but very decidedly.
After reading this there are 2 other e-mails that I need to write and issues that need to be addressed. I now have the resolve to do this and will do so after I submit this.
Thanks for making me pull up my socks and face the issues rather than just try and work around them ( with what has been little success to date).


Katy July 1, 2014 at 6:53 am

Good for you!


Amanda June 30, 2014 at 3:15 pm

Well said. You can’t win them all, but bravo for speaking up to the boss. Just the passion, intelligence and caring in the way you write about your job tells me you are an “exceeds” everyday.


Amanda June 30, 2014 at 3:26 pm

One other thought. I had a boss who was a master of the review. Management was only required to do end of year reviews, so mid-terms didn’t go on your “permanent record.” This boss always did mid-terms and they were always pretty bad. She would rip into you with nit picky stuff and very clearly explain expectations. I actually liked this approach because then you got all this great feedback, even if it was hard to hear. By the year end review most of us had incorporated her feedback and got stellar reviews. No surprises. It was so much less scary.


Katy July 1, 2014 at 6:53 am

I kind of like that, although it sounds like your boss could have used a bit more diplomacy in how she phrased her feedback. I personally like concrete information, so I think she and I would have worked well together.


Stephanie July 8, 2014 at 12:37 am

This has been so incredibly helpful to me. I’m up at an insanely early hour because I need to deal with something at my son’s school that is weighing on me. Reading this provided the last little push I need. Thank you!


Stacey July 15, 2014 at 5:07 pm

Well, having been through a similar situation with my daughter’s 3rd grade teacher just under 3 years ago, I can say that you probably made the right choice at the time to not speak out TOO forcefully. My daughter’s teacher was a NUT, and I decided that no matter how well put my argument would be to such a person, they are still not right in the head. And then I had to relinquish control of your child over to her every school day. So, you have to walk a fine line between standing up for yourself and protecting your child. Boy, do I remember that dilemma. Oh, and we homeschool now 🙂

But please talk about this subject more – my husband and I are very different than most of the folks in our town. We aren’t materialistic (very much) or status oriented. Frankly and sadly, we have a hard time connecting to a lot of folks around here because of that.


Stacey July 15, 2014 at 5:10 pm

That’s “control of my child” MY

Bad typos — sorry about that — I’m very tired.


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