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Sunday, 1 July 2018

The path to being seen and heard can be a long and winding road.

‘Children should be seen and not heard’….. As a child of the 1950s and 60s this view, although even then considered out dated, was still prevalent.  I certainly felt that in schools which, for me, were a fearful place to be in.   I certainly did not want to speak out and did my best to be as invisible as possible.  In that way I could protect myself and avoid trouble.

I would be the last to put up my hand in class to answer a question for fear of getting it wrong – teachers were quite aggressive and sarcastic in those days – adept at humiliation. Powerful strategies for silencing children.

There was a constant pressure to ‘be good’.  Monday to Friday in school and on Sunday there was Sunday school.  A huge amount of conditioning goes into a Christian upbringing – parental expectations were high and moral education handed over to religion. You definitely weren’t expected to express opinions, that would be frowned upon. There were many authority figures to challenge you.

The continual reinforcement of outdated attitudes and beliefs, going back generations.
Being quiet and good was expected for a girl. ‘Sugar and spice and all things nice’ – yes well, a lot to live up to. Not a lot was expected of girls in the 50s and early 60s.

The attitudes of not speaking up and being invisible do impact me still today.  I have spent the last couple of decades actively dealing with the fall out of these defensive practices and trying to push myself forward to speak up and be visible.   I have made significant inroads through countless personal and spiritual development courses and energetic healing practices but the programming is deep and sometimes persists.

The resistance that shows up from past conditioning is challenging but not impossible to overcome.
The fact that in my 40s I trained as a teacher and spent around 15 years teaching is testimony to that.
Although for most of those 15 years I felt a fraud.  I felt an imposter, I didn’t know enough, on paper my degree and teacher training showed me I was well qualified but I didn’t feel it and used every negative experience in the classroom to reinforce that attitude. It was only during my final year of teaching that I stopped comparing myself with everyone else and made peace with the fact that I had something useful to contribute to my students’ experience and that was good enough.

When I look at why I’ve continued to subdue my voice, and fear stepping forward and being known, there are several strands of thinking in the mix.

I’m afraid of getting it wrong.

As a child I did experience feeling silly, embarrassed, humiliated when at times I did get things wrong, particularly at school. Miscommunication or a child’s lack of understanding about a task – not tolerated so well years ago.  Thankfully (hopefully) today the education system is a little more tolerant. The same feelings will still show up as an adult – not all the time – but the fear hovers in the background.

If I get it wrong, the adult me knows it’s not the end of the world – but the inner child part of me fears feeling an idiot, fears rejection, fears she won’t be liked.  For her it is the end of the world and will she be brave enough to take the risk and speak up?   Speaking up means she’ll be noticed. She’ll become visible.

If I get something wrong, I’ll lose credibility and respect.  That was a big one for me as a teacher and it took a good few years for me to relax in the classroom enough to know that ‘not knowing’ was a great opportunity for whole class research to find the answer.  I taught psychology – how ABSURD to expect myself to know EVERYTHING about psychology?!

Letting the world know what I think means I’ll be judged and potentially criticised.  I might annoy or anger someone who may not be afraid of speaking out so it feels like an unsafe space to put myself in, so best stay quiet.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion, even me.  We all see the world through our own perceptions and experiences – why would be all think the same?

Learning to trust myself to be able to deal with the fallout and to feel confident to stand my ground if necessary – is an ongoing lesson.

As a child I learned to wait for others to speak first so I could judge what a right opinion or attitude might be.  I may not have been in alignment with their opinion but I could choose to agree so I didn’t stand out or I could simply say nothing.

My assumption was that others knew better.   Something I fall back into all too easily.
Perhaps it is not surprising I learned to be a listener instead of a speaker.

I am getting there, however, I am gradually releasing those invisible chains and am determined to open up to a bolder voice.   This comes from a deep place of knowing.   An authentic space of openness and vulnerability, of love and connection to express what is in my heart and to truly serve the best way I can.  For this to happen, I need to be visible.  People need to know where to find me – I cannot stay hidden in the shadows without a voice.

‘Children should be seen and not heard’… seems I neither wanted to be seen nor heard!  But we are not victims of our childhood, we can use our memories to inspire us to move forward. The journey home has been a long, winding road but, finally, I now have the key to the door.

Shirley x

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