My New Year's Resolution Is To Start Using My Voice, Because Staying Silent Is Making Me Sick

Ad failed to load

I was raised in the Midwest, where outdated gender norms are deeply ingrained. I was taught to be quiet, to defer to men, to be agreeable. In my family, I learned to fly under the radar, to apologize often, and take up as little space as possible. And I'm finally done with all that crap. My New Year's resolution is to start using my voice because while I have long thought that staying quiet kept me safe, I now realize that it's also kept me small. Though finding your voice is difficult, and not always feasible or safe, it is my New Year's resolution to begin doing so in as many contexts as I can.

While we have made some progress over the the past few decades, a study published in the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly reported that traditional gender biases, like men bring home the bacon and women fry it up, haven't changed that much in the past 30 years. People still want women to be "delicate," and express surprise when men tend to the house. One of these traditional gender biases is the expectation that women should defer to men — which in many cases, means staying silent.

As a child, I learned that tiptoeing my way through life was a way to survive. I regularly witnessed my single mom, who worked in finance, being berated by her male boss for both real and imagined mistakes. And, my mom, no matter how well-intentioned she may have been, reinforced this behavior in her kids. I was often disciplined for disagreeing with male family members, once over a sandwich I didn't want to eat because it was spoiled. However, my mom told me it was disrespectful to challenge my grandfather, who'd bought me the sandwich from a grocery store, even if I was right.

Ad failed to load

The punishment came only after my grandfather confronted my mom in a fury about my behavior. If this had happened in a different context, or with a female family member, I would not have been grounded for a week for refusing to eat spoiled food. Standing up to the men in my family was just not something you did, and it reinforced the belief that I should stay quiet and agreeable in order to avoid conflict.

Finding your voice is especially difficult if you don't have a support system. Zoe Chance Ph.D. wrote on Psychology Today that the cost of speaking out often outweigh the benefits. I've been sexually harassed numerous times on the job since beginning to work at age 13, and the one thing that has most driven my decision not to speak out about it or report it has been self-preservation. In the past, I have rationalized staying silent because I needed that job, and if I lost it by speaking out — or even worse, got blacklisted by naming someone in my profession who had sexually harassed me — how would I make a living?

Ad failed to load

For me, and millions of others who don't have the kind of families we can go home to when life goes sideways, the fear of not being able to support ourselves often overrides the desire to seek justice. When one incident occurred with my boss, I came home and told my then-boyfriend what happened. He responded by saying, "Well look what you're wearing. What did you expect?" Despite what I expected, and what I deserved, I continued to work there, I eventually married (and later, divorced) that boyfriend who told me I deserved it, and I kept that boss as a "friend" on social media until very recently. Because, like many women, I blamed myself for being harassed.

I still worry that I will be punished for using my voice; I constantly worry about job security, and how living in Los Angeles — one of the most expensive cities in the world — I'm always just a few paychecks away from being on the street. My anxiety is heightened right now because my roommate and I just got a 60-day notice to vacate our house, and I'm nervous about where we will live. Basically, I'm still afraid, and when I'm scared I put up with things I otherwise wouldn't.

Ad failed to load

But, I'm starting with baby steps — like leaving a corporate job where overt sexism was accepted and even condoned, so I can write essays like this. I've also been practicing a breathing meditation that encourages a lot of yelling, which has helped me feel a lot less anxious about telling it like it is. Each time I yell I'm able to let go of a little more of my fear, and access a little more of my strength.

The consequences of not speaking up can affect us to our very core. According to a study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, "Emotion suppression may convey risk for earlier death, including death from cancer." I have suspected for some time that staying quiet has contributed to my depression and anxiety. During a recent reading with a medical intuitive, she told me that my throat chakra was seriously blocked. That I was not speaking my truth. That my silence was making me sick, and she was right.

Of course, speaking up isn't always the right choice for everyone, and that's OK. For the reasons outlined above, every woman has the right to decide how and when to use her voice. What's more, using your voice does not necessarily mean revealing your own experiences. It can mean mean saying "no." It can mean speaking up when you witness injustices happening. It can mean reporting bad behavior, and supporting and believing others who report.

Ad failed to load

And it's not always that easy. When deciding if I should speak up about something, I sometimes wrestle with a moral dilemma. I ask myself, is it worth bringing these feelings to the surface? Is it my place to speak out on someone's behalf? Will my speaking up help the survivor? Sometimes, the answer is no. Until we live in a world where survivors are respected and believed, and perpetrators face consequences for their actions, some stories will never be told.

When you've been raised to be quiet, speaking up is hard as hell. An important first step for me has been having conversations with others close to me. And, while I thought I once stood alone, I've learned that many of my friends and family have also been suffering in silence. So, my New Year's resolution is to start using my voice, and to keep using it until eventually speaking up comes as naturally as breathing.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

These Are The Beauty Products That Came Out In May That You DEFINITELY Need On Your Radar

For beauty lovers, months aren't just months: They're 28 to 31 day periods, wherein any and all product and brand launches can happen — and when they do, it feels like your birthday, no matter what time of the year you were actually born. The May 201…
By Amanda Richards

Everything Leaving & Coming To Netflix In June To Help Get Your Summer Started

Summer is right around the corner, and so is another batch of streaming options to get excited about. On Wednesday, everything leaving and coming to Netflix in June 2018 was announced by the streaming platform. And don't worry, there's something for …
By Jamie Primeau

The 5 Rom-Coms You Need To Read This Summer, According To Someone Who Writes Them

'Tis the season for rom-coms. The weather is warm, the sun is shining, and everyone is rocking the flirtiest items in their wardrobe. I don't know about you, but summer always takes me back to my teenage years — and that automatically makes me want t…
By Cristina Arreola

11 Tiny Sunglasses That Will Make You Look Even Cooler Than Kylie Jenner

You know what they say — the tinier the sunglasses, the more stylish the outfit. OK, that's not really a saying, but it seems to be the case these days. Basically every celebrity, model, and It person has been spotted sporting tiny sunglasses as part…
By Sara Tan

9 Ways This Royal Wedding Was Way More Modern Than Past Ones

The newly named Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, made history with their storybook courtship and wedding. What's more, there are myriad ways the royal wedding 2018 was more modern than previous royal weddings. From deciding…
By Brandi Neal

10 Little-Known British Traditions Meghan Markle Will Learn When She Marries Prince Harry

As an American woman dating a Brit, I am no stranger to the mishaps that can result from the cultural differences between the U.S. and England. And while I'm sure Meghan Markle has a slew of royal traditions to learn, titles to remember, and fancy ha…
By Kristin Magaldi

I've Paid $18,000 To A $24,000 Student Loan, & I Still Owe $24,000

It all became real the summer before my senior year of college. It was 2010, and my home phone still had a cord, which I wrapped around my fingers as I waited not-so-patiently for the apathetic representative on the other end to tell me the bad news …
By Kaitlyn Cawley

12 Personality Quizzes That Will Help You Determine Your Exact Strengths

Learning more about yourself can be tough. It's so easy to observe others to learn what makes them tick, what areas they really excel in, and the things they could be better at. Doing that to yourself, however, is a whole different story. That's exac…
By Jessica Booth

5 Brand New Short Story Collections You Can Finish In One Sitting This Weekend

Since 2013, May has been known by book-lovers by another name: Short Story Month. If you're ready to kick off this year's celebration the right way, make sure to pick up a short story collection to read over the weekend. Modern life moves more than …
By Sadie Trombetta

I Got Styled By 'Queer Eye's Tan France & Realized I Still Have A Lot Of Fashion "Rules" To Unlearn

When I walked into a New York City Express store on May 2 to get styled by Queer Eye's Tan France, I was ready for anything. And I mean truly anything. I am such a massive fan of the show and Tan that if he had instructed me to wrap myself in tin foi…
By Olivia Muenter

It Isn’t Bad To Have A “Princess Fantasy” — Mine Made Me The Woman I Am Today

What do you want to be when you grow up? If you were anything like me as a kid, at some point, the answer to that question was "a princess." Thanks to good old-fashioned gender stereotypes, most little girls born in the '90s (and even now) grew up in…
By Nicole Pomarico

Here’s How To Get A FREE 30-Minute Facial At Sephora That Sucks Your Pores Clean

Sephora has long been a mecca for both serious and amateur beauty lovers alike, where they not only have makeup artists that help answer questions about products, but free samples to let you play with new collections. But now they have upped the ante…
By Marlen Komar

Kris Jenner Is FINALLY Launching A Makeup Line With Kylie

Maybe you don't have a favorite sister of the Kar-Jenner clan, and that's perfectly fine. The one thing you can't deny, though, is that when it comes power, no one in that family has more than the world famous momager. Now, Kris Jenner x Kylie Cosmet…
By Shea Simmons

This Kendall Jenner “Diva” Moment Is Really Being Taken Out Of Context

The fashion always takes center stage at the Met Gala, but there's usually a little drama, too. And this time, a member of the Kardashian-Jenner family is involved. People are buzzing about how Kendall Jenner shoved someone at the Met Gala, but after…
By Nicole Pomarico

Feel Like You've Seen Everything On Netflix? Add These Movies To Your Watch List

The weekend may feel too far away, but if you're lacking formal plans, a Netflix marathon session is always a good idea. If you're an avid viewer, however, you probably feel like you've seen everything the streaming platform has to offer already. In …
By Ashley Rey

Hillary Clinton Says She's Ready To Fight Like A Republican — EXCLUSIVE

Hillary Clinton Is Not Going Away Quietly. Can Hillary Clinton Please Go Quietly Into The Night? Unlike Losers Before Her, Clinton Is Not Going Gently Into the Night. These headlines, which appeared in various news outlets over the course of the last…
By Catherine Thompson and Jenny Hollander

Here's The Very Best Time To Book Your Summer Vacation If You're Trying To Save Money

Summer is a great time to travel, for obvious reasons. The weather is better. Many offices are more lax about time off. If you have kids, they’re out of school. But there’s one very important element that makes summer not a great time to travel: Cost…
By Emma McGowan