How To Find Your Voice This Thanksgiving

As Thanksgiving approaches, I have been reflecting on a strange phenomenon that I witnessed this year as I traveled around the US talking about thought leadership. I call it the “I can’t, because…” phenomenon.

I first witnessed it in January, even before the official book launch, when I sat down for lunch with a group of Bay Area women leaders and discussed what was holding them back from becoming thought leaders.

“My father was a conservative rabbi,” shared one of the attendees – now a prominent rabbi in her own right, “I was taught that women’s voices should always be softer than men’s. My congregation has been pushing me to speak out more on the difficult issues, but I can’t because I keep hearing my dad’s voice in my head and I hesitate.”

In February, I heard a similar story when I visited a college campus to give a book talk. “I have a lot of ideas about campus issues and I’d love to start a blog,” one student leader told me, “But I can’t, because I know no one is going to listen to someone who’s only a freshman.”

A few months later, I spoke before a group of senior, mostly male, entrepreneurs from the Indian community. When I asked what held them back from becoming thought leaders, someone in the very back of the audience said, “In the Indian community, it is not considered proper to show off. I’d love to be more visible for my ideas, but I can’t because I don’t want the stigma of looking like a show off.”

I can’t, because….

Such a powerful set of just three words that are holding us back from finding our voice. From sharing our ideas. From letting our knowledge and experience and passion and commitment out into the world.

I can’t, because…. I am too old or too young, because my religion or my gender or my culture preclude me. Because I’m not experienced enough or I’m not a good writer. I’m terrified of speaking in front of groups or my boss wouldn’t like it.

Or maybe, no one wants to hear what I have to say.

The list of why we can’t is seemingly endless and it paralyzes us. So we don’t step into the spotlight, or onto the stage, or into our power and our voice.

But what if we could?

Today, I’d like to start a new Thanksgiving tradition of thanks that looks like this.

I CAN AND I WILL SHARE MY IDEAS BECAUSE…

As you are giving thanks for all of your many blessings this year, add that phrase to the beginning of each item you are appreciating.

I can and I will share my ideas because… I have a wonderful family.

I can and I will share my ideas because… I have a delicious meal to eat.

I can and I will share my ideas because… I have an amazing friend(s).

I can and I will share my ideas because… I have a place to live.

I can and I will share my ideas because… I have had an education.

You see where I’m going with this?

We have so much to be grateful for. Each and every one of those blessings could be a reason we DO step onto the stage (metaphoric or otherwise) this year.

By reminding ourselves of what we’re grateful for – what we already have in place that allows us to be heard — we remind ourselves that we are well on our way rather than halted on the doorstep to our future.

Every day we have a choice.

To listen to the “I can’t, because” voice or the “I can and I will” voice. Both are ever present.

If we look around us, our Thanksgiving blessings are with us 365 days of the year.

And when we appreciate our many gifts, it is a far smaller step to give ourselves permission to use them.

So why not adopt a new tradition of Thanksgiving with me this year and identify all the reasons “you can, because…”

I’d love to hear what you discover.

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