Magazine Issues 2016 FS152 Why finding my voice has been a struggle By Vish | @vishdelishuk I’ve been on a rollercoaster of anxiety recently and it’s left me feeling glum. My melancholy has triggered bodily hives and random outbursts of tears. You could say I’ve been an emotional wreck. However, it became clear that these particular feelings had surfaced due to my new job. It’s weird, because I know deep down I shouldn’t be feeling like this. This job has been the best thing to happen to me in many years. It’s a dream position, where I get to tackle LGBT issues and actually help people. Something I had envisaged doing when I came out to myself at 15. I remember my teenage self thinking “I want to help all the gays of the land” like some ‘gaysian’ Mother Teresa. Delusions aside, I always thought such a career would be my forte. But something was standing in my way of being a good employee: my non-existent voice. You see my job requires me to talk in an assertive and knowledgeable manner about various LGBT issues to a variety of audiences i.e; issues that I’m undoubtedly passionate about, but for some reason I clam up. I can’t seem to connect the somewhat articulate words in my mind to my vocal cords. I become even more tongue tied around supposed intellectual types. I either stay mute or my words come out as verbal diarrhoea. Ultimately, I’m worried my lack of voice will jeopardise my job, and that’s the scary part. So this got me thinking, why do I have difficulties in speaking out? I guess the answer to this conundrum lies in my past. As a child I was deeply shy. I hated attention and would hide from anyone who would challenge me. My parents were busy working seven days a week and I was mainly babysat by my much older sisters. There wasn’t much dialogue in my family. When I did show a burst of audibility, I was told to zip it. The dynamics of my family culture reinforced the archaic thinking that well-behaved children are only seen, not heard. It’s not surprising that I detached myself from my voice. I sadly came to see my voice as a bothersome entity for others. I gathered comfort from being seen as the family’s ‘good quiet boy’, so my voice was compromised for approval. On the positive side, losing my voice ensured that an actively rich imagination. I was happy to live in a safe, self-made mental bubble. My imagination helped me escape obstacles and anxieties in ways that I continue to use today. But there is a downside to all this imagination: it stops you from taking responsibility. It’s clear my lack of voice is predominatntly linked with my discomfort of taking on responsibility. The prospect of being held account able for my words is deeply daunting to me. What happens if I offend someone? Or what happens if my voice doesn’t make sense? These anxieties plague my mind and my throat caves in. In a creepy self-sabotaging way, I would go further and say I fear progression. I’ve cornered myself in being so content with silence and it’s now become a struggle to break free from it. I’ve realised expressing a voice, no matter how inarticulate, is key to progression. But progression takes personal responsibility. I’ve come to a point where I can now accept this, even though pushing through my comfort zones is still a struggle. I must learn to nurture my voice, not just for the sake of staying employed, but as a tool to express my identity. How do I start to do this? Well, I need to give myself permission to speak, because let’s face it: I’ve stayed silent long enough.