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January 3, 2016

How I found my Voice & got Comfortable being Naked.

Quick, turn off the lights!

I don’t want anyone to actually see me. Not this exposed. Not this naked.

This is how I feel each time I speak from my heart—and especially when I write from the heart.

To write from my heart feels like one of those nightmares where, all of a sudden, I find myself out in public without a stitch of clothing on and everyone is staring at me. Only with writing, there is no waking up with the sweet relief that it was just a dream.

But no matter how baring it feels, I know I must do it. I have something to say, and it must be said or it will stay stifled inside me.

I wasn’t always this way. I’m just now learning to find my voice again.

Many of us have lost our voices somewhere along the way. We were taught to suppress our voice. We were told it was unsafe. We were criticized, judged or punished. We were warned we may seem weird or people may not like us. We were told being vulnerable is weak.

To that I say: f*ck that.

Our voice is our truth. It is our self-expression. It is our power. It’s not the power of a king or dictator—it’s not power over someone. It’s the power of our true selves that comes from the core of our being.

When it’s real and true, I feel it in my gut. It rises up through my core, through the heart and out of my mouth. Well technically, when writing it comes out of my fingertips and onto the keyboard.

It’s healing. It’s connection. But only when I really disrobe. If I try to dim the lights even just a little or cover up partly with a blanket, the signal to connect with others goes weak. But when I drop all those things and sit in the awkwardness of my bare nakedness—it’s magic.

I had to do quite a bit of digging and soul searching to reclaim my voice. In doing so, I unearthed the first time I stifled it. The memory had been pushed down to the depths of my subconscious for the past 20+ years.

It was my first pass at creative writing in grade school. My teacher would hatch eggs in an incubator. I loved those little chicks. I remember constantly checking on one little chick who was weak and struggling after it hatched. I became obsessed with saving the sickly baby chicken, but I couldn’t do much about it, and soon thereafter it died. I was devastated, and I angrily burst out at the teacher, blaming him for not doing enough to save the chick, and then took my feelings to paper to write about it in my homework assignment that afternoon.

I poured my heart out with no shame in that homework, with pure unabashed innocence as children do. Afterwards, I somehow felt better about the chick’s death. I wasn’t as angry or sad. I felt lighter. I felt accomplished.

I proudly presented my homework the next day. I was sure I had written a touching masterpiece. I thought: When I grow up, I want to be a writer.

A few days later the graded writing assignments were returned. As the teacher handed them out, I excitedly waited for mine to read the sure to be glowing comments. When I looked down at the notebook paper I saw a giant D- in red ink on the front. I couldn’t believe it. I felt my face getting hot; I held back tears. I stuffed the paper in my notebook. I would never be a writer, I told myself.

After school, in the safety of my home, I pulled out the paper. I couldn’t even look at it. I tore it to pieces and stuffed it to the bottom of the garbage. I didn’t want anyone to see what I had written. It must have been so stupid if I got a D-. How could I have ever thought I could be a writer?

It was at that moment stifled my voice because I told myself I wasn’t good enough.

Fast forward almost 20 years later.

I was fresh out of college, in the corporate world, looking to find my niche and further my career. I had forgotten about that baby chicken and the D- grade, but without planning for it, I fell into corporate writing. I found myself writing memos, emails, speeches, technical documents and policies. Not exactly the stuff dreams are made of, but I enjoyed it. I even started to suspect that I may be good at it.

Then I found yoga, and shortly thereafter, elephant journal. I began to search for something in my life with more purpose and grew bored with corporate writing. At my desk before work or at lunch, I would read elephant journal articles for a bit of positivity to get me through the day. When I saw their Academy program announcement, with the intention to “write to be of benefit,” I felt that this was the puzzle piece I had been searching for—to write for purpose, connection and self-expression.

During the Apprentice program, my first article was published on elephant journal. When I got the news, I felt disbelief. Really? My article was good enough for elephant journal? A wave of excitement hit me. That euphoria didn’t last long before panic set in when I realized now people would actually read what I had written. Crap, someone turn off the lights! Now!

I hid in the proverbial dark for a few days not telling anyone about the article. I was terrified. It was then that I remembered the D- I got in grade school. Ah, that’s it! That’s why I was so afraid to share my words. Would the readers also give me a D- just like my teacher?

I began to wonder if the reason the teacher gave me a D- was because I had criticized him about the death of the chick. I stopped myself with a moment of realization—who cares why? There will always be someone in life giving me a D-. I will never be able to control others’ reactions to me, but should I let that prevent me from speaking? Writing? Doing whatever the hell I want to do and being my biggest, most truest form of self? Hell no!

So I write. I know I can’t stop, no matter how awkward and uncomfortable it feels. I write because something in me feels like I have to. I write for the baby chicken. I write because even if everyone gives me a D-, there is a possibility that there is one person that finds comfort or connection in what I have written.

Every single one of us has something to say—and we should just say it.

Find the part of you that lies repressed, let it rise up through your heart and out into the world in whatever your form of self-expression may be.

Dance. Sing. Write. Speak. Create art.

Do it for yourself. Do it for others.

When you feel completely naked to the core, you are on the right track. Don’t reach for the lights or blanket to cover yourself up. Stand fully in your most naked, bare, exposed true self. You never know who you may inspire.

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Author: Adrienne Dygert

Image: Author’s Own

Editor: Travis May

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