My voice…my story…me

I developed a bad habit years ago: I talk over people.  This habit came about somewhat as a survival technique.  When I was in high school I hung out with a group of friends who were highly talkative.  The only problem was I felt like I could never get a word in edgewise as I didn’t want to interupt anyone.  I finally expressed this frustration with my friends and they offered up this solution: just start talking in the midst of a conversation and eventually they’ll get the cue and stop talking to listen to me.  I was a little tentative at first but eventually got the hang of it and this seemed to work for everyone.

Unfortunately this carried on into my adult life and I use it in many situations.  It happened this week with my husband.  I hadn’t even realized I’d done it until he brought it up afterwards.

And I felt terrible for doing it.

I don’t want to overpower or silence anyone’s voice. 

And yet I wonder if there is something deeper going on for me.  Am I afraid of losing my “voice”?  That somehow I will not be heard.  Or that there will be no opportunity to express myself unless I “barge in” on the conversation.  And if I lose my “voice”, then  my “story” cannot be told or heard.  And if that happens, will I lose a sense of my identity?  Will I feel that I am worth-less and that my “story” is not important.

But I want to feel worth something, that I have value in this world and in my relationships.  I wonder if this is what happens to people who truly do lose their “voice” (or never had one).  Whether it is a result of gender or race or socio-economic status, they have no “space” to tell their “story” and so experience feelings of worthlessness.

I am not one of those extreme cases.  And yet because my “voice” had no “space” to be heard by the people close to me (and not just with my friends but moreso with my family), I felt worthless.  Empathy goes a long way.  Unfortunately I did not experience much of that growing up.

And so here I am, at 40 years of age, with this unconscious fear that my “story” is not important (that I am not important) and it propels me to override conversations in an attempt to maintain my sense of self-worth.

I can only say that, hopefully, with a greater understanding of what is going on at the unconscious level, I can start to “unlearn” this bad habit and learn how to tell my “story” and honour everyone else’s “stories” as well.

5 Responses

  1. I do this. I know. You’re shocked.

    Actually, I’m SURE I’ve done it to you. When I’m nervous, or REALLY happy I do it a lot. When I am conscious of it, I can control it. Often, as I’m driving somewhere, I give myself a little talk. “Becky, what you have to say isn’t any more important than what other people have to say. And really, what do you get out of telling people every single story you can think of? Wouldn’t you rather come away knowing more about your friend than say every last thing that crosses your mind?”

    Usually this works on me. But I think one of the reasons I struggle with it the most is I think it’s my job to do a lot of things that aren’t really my job. One of those things is entertaining everyone in my vicinity. Or comforting them. Or whatever it is that I think my words can give them. And that’s harder for me to reign in.

    I keep hoping that when I grow up I’ll be able to control those parts of myself that make me crazy better… So far… Not really.

    When I do this to you, please know it’s not because I’m not interested in your story. And please feel free to remind me of this “conversation.”

    November 8, 2013 at 10:29 pm

  2. I love that you are leading the way in being vulnerable and sharing. This is one of those tough ones, where the ‘talk or be silenced’ voices in my head pull me to do the very same thing. I think I’m soooo conscious of it and try sooo hard not to do it, but I’ve also had to steal air space from others just to get a word in edgewise myself…. and sadly, it’s getting more and more comfortable to do so.

    I will be free to remind you of this conversation, if you have the freedom to remind me as well!

    November 9, 2013 at 9:40 am

  3. carolannetebay

    Wow! I hadn’t anticipated this post generating the kind of conversation it has. I guess I thought I was alone in my predicament and wasn’t thinking of other people’s habits while writing (except for my situation in high school). It makes me wonder, “why do we do this?” It seems there are various reasons. I think the key is honesty and grace. If I can admit I have a problem with friends and family and we can offer each other grace, I think transformation is much more likely. ‘Cause we’re all going to make mistakes. It’s when we’re aware of them and know there’s grace in our ‘trying’ that’s it’s so much easier to step out and embrace change. Thank you, Becky and Connie, for sharing.

    November 9, 2013 at 8:43 pm

  4. Tamara Wanner

    Carol, thank you for explaining so clearly my own heart and issues with ‘interrupting’. I do this often with my children and husband and more than likely others too. By the way, your blog is wonderful to read. I love the person you are and becoming. You were a beautiful bud in high school but now you are blossoming into the gorgeous woman I saw glimpses of long ago.

    November 10, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    • carolannetebay

      Thanks Tamara. I wonder what you glimpsed in me in college or HOW you could see it. I certainly couldn’t see it but am so glad I am being ‘made new’. Blessings to you!

      November 10, 2013 at 2:19 pm