It Always Counts
Oh, election week. It is finally here. Growing up, Election Day was like the Super Bowl. We kept the television on all day, listening to commentary, nibbling on chips, crossing our fingers for the candidate we had chosen. And we absolutely voted. As the descendant of people who literally fought for my right to vote, it was unacceptable to NOT cast your ballot at every opportunity that is presented. My Grandma Rachel was very clear - all voices mattered - even the ones that we disagree with. And voting was synonymous with raising our voice. Not voting meant that we don’t believe that our own voice is worthy of being heard. That’s a pretty significant problem - feeling like or believing that our own voice isn’t worthy of being heard. Election season or not, what if we could all think about the importance and value of our voice year round?
Let’s lay out some basic, simple truths. Our voice is more than the words that come out of our mouth. Our voice is our opinions, our beliefs, and our reality. Our voice is completely unique, though it bears similarities to those who have influenced us, or who have shaped our lives in one way or another. Our voice is the expression of our values and ideals. And while we don’t spend each and every day telling every passerby what we care the most about, we don’t spend our lifetime silent. Or at least we shouldn’t.
Let’s imagine for a moment how being silent impacts our relationships with others and with ourselves. If we never take the opportunity to speak up, or constantly feel like we simply can’t, how does that hurt us? How does that affect how we show up in the world if we are never on the giving end of information that matters most to us? Life-changing or not, our silence hurts us along with everyone out there who could potentially benefit. Our world has been irreversibly changed by the voices of others just as much as the silence of others has deeply hurt us. Think John Lewis speaking truth to power about civil rights. Think villagers in Poland saying nothing at all in the face of atrocities that know no bounds.
If we never speak up, then our expectations about things going our way should be small. How is someone supposed to know what you need or want if you say nothing? How are others supposed to have the chance to consider it? And if our fear of what others might think about what we have to say is the key motivating factor behind saying nothing, that deserves a bit of our attention on its own. What we say and how we say it is indeed completely our choice. There are many instances in which saying nothing at all is the appropriate, adequate, and potentially most empowering move we can make. But more often than not, our silence is driven by some sort of concern about how it will be received, or what others will think. Speaking out should never be about what it is going to do for others. It should always be about what it means to us. Most people aren’t going to care what we have to say. They certainly aren’t going to care about what we have to say if we don’t care first. Fundamentally, the only one who needs to be listening to you is you, for the simple act of expression helps bolster your very own agency, and your investment in self. Strange how speaking up legitimately includes speaking to an audience of one - you.
Election season or not, your voice matters. What you say, what you believe, what you care about. You get to choose how often you make it heard, and how often you confirm it to yourself and for yourself. Make your voice heard in your family, at your place of work, in your community, among your friends, and when you are staring at yourself in the mirror. Be proud of your capacity to speak your truth and tell your own story.
Your voice matters. Even when not checked on a box to be tallied for a big election, how you feel and what you have to say about anything and everything counts. It is the belief that every voice matters, and the disagreement between voices is important to learning, and growing, and understanding each other. Our collective voices literally carry us to a new place. I think that ideal, and the act of making it a reality by voting when asked, would make my grandmother very proud.