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I was raised in the Midwest, where outdated gender norms are deeply ingrained.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, 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

7 Signs Your Partner Is "The One," Even If They Have Commitment Issues

There's nothing better than finding that one person you could actually see yourself spending the rest of your life with. However, realizing that your partner has commitment issues can put a damper on things. It may even have you questioning whether o…
By Kristine Fellizar

Bustle's Editors On Florida + Fergie

Welcome to a new week, Bustle readers! February is already more than halfway through, and the weather feels way more like spring than winter right now — but don't get used to it. There's a lot to recap today, from the latest on the tragic Parkland sh…
By Rachel Simon

Here's Where Your Next Trip Should Be, Based On Your Zodiac Sign

If you've been craving a vacation, now is a good time to take the plunge. According to data collected by travel site Expedia, late winters and early spring are pretty much the best times of the year to go on vacation. Based on average airfare ticket …
By Callie Tansill-Suddath

How This Quadriplegic Beauty Lover Beat Cancer & Became A Professional Makeup Artist

In 2010, one day before she was supposed to start cosmetology school, Steph Aiello was involved in a car crash that left her paralyzed from the waist down with limited ability to move her hands and one of her closest friends dead. She would spend the…
By Sara Tan

7 Common Marriage Rules That Aren't Good For Relationships

When it comes to marriage, everyone loves to give their two cents, and with all the warnings and advice floating around out there, no wonder people find marriage intimidating. Luckily, you don't always have to play by the rules, and there's some bad …
By Carina Wolff

The Infuriating Way Hollywood Movie Sets Are Designed To Make Life Harder For Women

Whitney Cummings is fed up — with the way Hollywood treats women, and in particular, the way the it treats female directors who have children. While the entertainment industry may be working hard to get more women behind the camera, Cummings wants to…
By Casey Cipriani

19 Things Your Parents Told You Were Illegal In The '90s

Kids say — and think — the darnedest things. We have overactive imaginations, adults like to mess with us, and we don't always understand everything we hear. That's why some kids call strawberries "straw babies" — a boo-boo so adorable, you don't eve…
By Megan Grant

Why Uggs Are Never Going Away, Whether You Like Them Or Not

Uggs. The word alone can conjure up memories of teenage years, regrettable outfits, and undeniable comfort. But if, like me, you thought that you've already said goodbye to those fleece-lined tan boots, you can think again. It seems fashion has adopt…
By Lauren Sharkey

I Never Want To Write This Essay Again

I don't know where you were when you heard about Wednesday's high school shooting in Parkland, Florida. I don't know what you were doing, or how you tried to process the news. I do know this: you thought to yourself, not again. And yet, again. Of cou…
By Jenny Hollander

Netflix's New Romantic Movie Will Have You Crying Like It's 'The Fault In Our Stars'

Cancer movies are a heartbreaking staple of Hollywood and have been for decades. It's almost a law of nature: new year, new cancer movie. This year, it's Netflix's Irreplaceable You, a heartbreaking original about a longtime couple who get thrown for…
By Olivia Truffaut-Wong

Here Are All The Terms You Need To Know If You’re Watching Olympic Ski Events Right Now

Every four years the Winter Olympics rolls around to remind me that A) there are so many important Winter Olympic sports, and B) I know virtually nothing any of them. And I know for a fact, I'm not alone, I bet most people don't know what the differe…
By Danielle Colin-Thome

Kate Middleton Made Sales Of This $1 Secret Accessory Spike & She'll Turn You Into A Believer

There's a royal epidemic going on, people. It's one that causes any and everyone to obsess over the royal family's wardrobe and beauty routines, even if it means breaking the bank to look like them. So a frenzy was expected when Kate Middleton report…
By Summer Arlexis

Adam Rippon and Mirai Nagasu Have Matching Tattoos & The Story Is So Cute

Olympic season gives people the feels. From those shipping Canadian ice dancing pair Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir to Shaun White's gold medal win on Tuesday, the feels are real. Now, there's another reason to get all up in your emotions. Adam Rippon a…
By Shea Simmons

A New Study Says Being In A Relationship Could Change Your Taste In Wine — Here's How

I’d be willing to bet that for many of you, a nice bottle of wine is awaiting you in your near future — and if you’re planning on sharing that bottle with a partner, there might be more to your choice than meets the eye: According to recent research,…
By Lucia Peters

Carrie Brownstein On Why Even The Obama Era Should Have Enraged You

An icy January morning soon after Hollywood's show of solidarity for the #MeToo movement at the Golden Globes and almost exactly one year into the Trump Administration feels like a momentous time to be sitting across from Carrie Brownstein. The Sleat…
By Samantha Rollins

Here’s What The Upcoming Year Of The Dog Means For Your Chinese Zodiac Sign

On Feb. 16 the world will celebrate the Chinese New Year, welcoming the Year of the Dog in like the good doggo it is — we hope. A new year means new zodiac predictions for the 365 days ahead. So, what does the Year of the Dog mean for your Chinese zo…
By Brittany Bennett

7 Signs You're Ready To Get Into A Relationship, According To Experts

It can be difficult to tell when you're ready to start dating again. Maybe you're coming off of a bad breakup, maybe you've just been focused on other things. And, ironically, one of the signs that you're ready to be in a relationship is that you're …
By Lea Rose Emery

I Got A Breast Reduction & It Was About So Much More Than The Size Of My Boobs

As a young teenager, I pretty much reached peak physical maturity overnight. One day I was wearing my first training bra a la Lizzie McGuire, and the next I was sweatily fumbling around a Victoria’s Secret with 32DD boobs, trying to summon up the cou…
By Sierra Taylor Horton

This Is, Hands Down, The *Grossest* Thing Babies Do Inside The Womb

Your baby's life in the womb may be safe and warm, but it's also kind of grody. Seriously, the whole process of growing into a human being includes more than a few icky moments along the way. But this is the grossest thing babies do inside the womb b…
via Romper

The 15 Best Fiction Books Of February Feature Tons Of Extraordinary Women

When the cold winds of February blow in, there's nothing I want more than to hide under my covers with a good book. Luckily, there's more than a few fantastic new fiction books coming out this month, so the only tough decision you'll have to make is …
By Melissa Ragsdale

17 Moms Reveal The Most Disgusting Part Of Their Pregnancy

Pregnant bodies do weird-ass things. Weird-ass, gross things. I mean, my pregnant body did (twice), and I have long-suspected I'm not alone. So I asked other moms to share the most disgusting part of their pregnancy and I learned that, not only am I …
via Romper