Tanya Younce, M.Ed., LPCC


How to Develop Your True Voice

Being a poor decision-maker or having difficulty being clear about your own needs, interests or goals usually comes from being raised without being allowed to speak what was on your mind or express yourself fully. Or, if you were allowed, it was somehow criticized, marginalized, or disregarded (“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”).

Been there. Done that.


We were seen but not heard. If we disagreed with anything, we might have been railroaded anyway or even punished. It seemed as if adults just didn’t take us seriously. And so, we were left believing that our opinions, needs, interests, and emotions weren’t going to be valid until we were grown-ups.

When authority figures tell you what you like, how you really feel, and make all major decisions for you (without consulting you), how can you possibly learn how to do any of these things for yourself? Giving a child a voice, taking the time to fully understand what it is they’re feeling or thinking, and encouraging them to make their own decisions or have their own interpretations of things is one of the most empowering gifts you can provide as a parent, teacher, or other caregiver.

It not only gives them a sense of self-worth, but it develops a sense of competence and a clearer understanding of who they are and what they’re about. This helps with being a strong individual but, perhaps more importantly, it also helps them be in healthier relationships with others.

I have seen countless couples in marriage therapy where the communication breakdown has been, in large part, due to one or both of their inabilities to identify and adequately express their needs, thoughts, and feelings. They either err on the side of shutting down completely and developing strong resentment against the other, or they go to the opposite extreme of having complete and utter emotional meltdowns, rendering them ‘ridiculous’ and ‘irrational.’

What we need more than anything in relationships is to be heard, understood and respected. “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” is a motto that can heal a lot of wounds between people, groups (think current hate groups, racial divides, and political parties, etc.), and even countries.

The only way to heal from being denied any kind of platform, as a child and/or teenager, is to take every opportunity as an adult to learn how to tune into yourself and pay attention to what’s going on inside. Meditation is excellent for this. So is journaling and therapy. Understand yourself first, then seek to be understood. Your voice will become stronger as the margins around who you are, as a person, go from being blurry and vague to being more clearly defined and in focus.

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