By: Jen Liptak – Columnist, Junior
My mouth has moved like a duck’s ass since I was a little girl. Between my blunt personality and over-powering voice, I have never had an issue speaking my mind. My parents always joke that it’s because I like the sound of my own voice, but anyone who knows me understands that my voice is one of my strong suits.
While I have always been an expressive person, my passion for speaking up and discussing difficult topics developed from my decision to major in human rights studies. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this major, studying human rights is a way of discoursing complex issues within our society. What I find most fascinating about my work is that, although most human rights issues are controversial and large in scope, they can teach you to stop and focus on even smaller topics. For example, the power of voice.
In the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 19 states that all human beings have the right to freedom of speech. This means that any person can voice his or her opinion publicly, without fearing suppression by government, private institutions or individuals. It seems rather obvious, but you’d be surprised by the amount of violations of this right. Even more surprising is the amount of people who are unaware that this is a basic human right, and thus remain silent.
For some people, too much silence can create a sense of entrapment. The more people attempt to suppress their thoughts, the greater the chance of those thoughts backfiring—or possibly distorting their perceptions. What I find even more alarming is that by suppressing emotions and thoughts, people put themselves at a higher risk for serious mental and physical health problems. Anger, depression, anxiety. Pain, exhaustion, sickness.
So why do people suppress their emotions and thoughts? One reason is because all of us, no matter what we might say, are influenced by social norms and opinions. We tend to get so wrapped up in trends and what others think that we forget we are the writers of our life’s script. Some people only make decisions based on whether or not society would approve or disapprove of them.
Society has constructed the stigma that you have to be OK— that talking about your problems is a sign of weakness or failure. However, the truth is the opposite: It takes courage and confidence to be able to express your feelings and thoughts. We are a communicative species. We are born with the ability to think and feel, but, most importantly, to form relationships so we can use our voice. By allowing ourselves to communicate what matters most to us in our own lives with others, we are ultimately giving ourselves a peace of mind, despite the criticism or disapproval we might get.
A person’s voice can be as powerful as he or she wants it to be. It has the power to destroy, but can also heal. It can remain the same, yet transform. But most importantly, a voice has the power to speak the truth.
If you would like to share your opinion, email Opinions Editor Steven Goodman at firstname.lastname@example.org.