Op-EdOpinion

OWENS: Let Your Voice be Heard

I was in my early 20s, he was a guy I was casually dating. He wanted me to engage in activity that I wasn’t comfortable with. I pulled away and he grabbed me by the wrist. I wasn’t sure if he was joking or not when he mentioned he could, “break my wrist if he wanted to.” I did nothing.

I was in my early 20s, he was my superior. He made sexually suggestive comments to me on the job. I laughed it off because I thought maybe he was just flirting with me. I did not flirt back but felt obliged to let it continue. I didn’t want it to. I thought maybe I brought it on for being attractive. If I told anyone they would just say, “He’s just being a man.” I accepted it.

I was in middle school, he was my crush. A friend and myself decided to three-way call him and ask if he ‘liked’ me. He told my friend he thought I was cute, but I would be more attractive if I wasn’t “fat.” She asked me if I was okay, I said I was. I wasn’t okay, I said nothing about it for decades.

Why did I accept these things? In my mind now, I am angered that I did not have the courage, self-respect, or self-love to let my voice be heard. We are in crucial times where even as a young Black millennial woman, our voices are often stifled or unheard simply because others think we shouldn’t have a voice, so why try?

At an early age, my crush made me aware of my body. If my body didn’t look how it was, I would be more desirable. When really my body type shouldn’t define my worth. I was worried the man I was dating wouldn’t want to date me anymore and I would be alone. What’s so wrong with standing on your own two feet until you find someone who values and respects you as a partner.

I was worried I might lose my job if I rocked the boat and complained about my superior making me uncomfortable. I didn’t want to be viewed as “that girl” who complained. She shouldn’t wear all that makeup to work or her dress shouldn’t have been that short. Just because of how I looked or what I wore made it acceptable for me to feel uncomfortable in a working environment? I should just accept the fact that I had it coming to me? No. But this is the common thought trending in America today. “Why would someone just now report this or speak out?” Most likely because they didn’t want to feel judged, ridiculed and told they had it coming to them.

We are often our own worst barriers. Is it due to societal conceptions or our own thoughts? Either way, we need to learn it’s not a “right” or “privilege” to speak up, it’s a given. We see our counterparts, even our men, speak up and tell their truths, only to be applauded and praised. When we as women do it, we are being “emotional” or “overreacting” or even lying.

I spent over a decade being in relationships that took a toll on my self-esteem. Toxic relationships that suppressed my growth not only as a woman, but in my career and business. I often cancelled my own self-care plans in order to please who ever I was dating, such as working out or spending time with my friends and family. I was willing to compromise my feelings and priorities for another person.

When you do that it allows others to walk over you. I use the word “allow” because ultimately you are giving them permission to. I had to learn it was perfectly OK to say no, and if someone didn’t respect that no, then that was their problem and not mine.

Even now I contemplated about sharing parts of my story. In the back of my mind I told myself, “Who would listen to me?” “Who would believe me?” Then I remembered my why: Why I decided to tell my story, so that others would have the courage and self-love to tell theirs.

You never know who you may save by telling your truth. Is it scary? Yes. Is it necessary? Definitely.

I spent most of my life hiding my voice, afraid of being seen. I urge you all, to stand up and be heard. Even if it seems that no one is listening, they are. Never be afraid to speak your truth, no matter how painful or embarrassing. Your truth could be someone else’s truth who is too apprehensive to speak out. It could be what they need to speak out about, too.

Follow Owens on Instagram @miss_morgan86 and at www.morganaowens.com.

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