Speaking Your Mind is Easier Said Than Done

This semester, I find myself extremely hesitant to voice my opinion in class. In one class in particular, which happens to be heavily centered on pertinent social issues, I’m afraid that whatever I say will be the wrong thing to say. But what is the wrong thing to say? And why do I care in the first place?

If I had to guess, it’s because I’m an extremely sensitive person that empathizes with others (perhaps too much). I tiptoe around sharing my thoughts to avoid causing anyone any pain. But maybe it’s time to stop worrying about that, or, at least, to slacken my filters. It’s time to stop gagging myself for no good reason.

I’m not endorsing cruelty here, and I do think that it’s important to consider what consequences your words might have before you say them. All I’m trying to do is convince myself that my opinions are just as valid as anyone else’s. After all, I’m an advocate for civil discussion, especially in tense or divided environments; I believe that’s where discussion is needed the most. I might as well participate, if I’m going to praise its benefits.

Getting to the real root of the problem, why am I so worried about what other people think of me? Of course, the rational fear of having your beliefs taint your reputation and the possibility of making a few enemies are worrisome. But is a reputation so important that you should sacrifice your beliefs for it? I want employment, yes. I need employment. We all do, and that’s why keeping a solid professional reputation is crucial. But why do I fear the social repercussions of having a different opinion? What I think is what I think. I try to keep an open mind, and I have had my opinion changed before, but I shouldn’t doubt my resolution or my core values and feelings.

I admire, even envy, the people who live their lives without these kinds of worries. And I’ve tried my whole life to stay true to the person I am, regardless of whether that person is popular, so why do I worry? Why don’t I apply that same personal commitment to more serious aspects of my life? One answer is that I’m an anxious person. Another might be that I crave approval so, so much, and I do. Validation feels good,but maybe the only validation we should desire is from those for whom we truly care. Even then, we can, and sometimes will, disagree with our loved ones, but perhaps people-pleasing on a mass scale is a less than ideal goal.

I’m sure that this has all been said before, but it might be worth repeating. I can’t promise anyone that I’m adhering to the principles I write here. My way to success in the classroom may very well be to fake it until I make it, and there’s no shame in that. But when it’s not just an exercise for a grade, it will be time to let my voice be heard. I’ll have to stop being afraid and open up for once, and that’s easier said than done.