How often do you use your voice to deal on your own behalf?

Today is April 20 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you use your voice to deal on your own behalf?” Those navigating the chaos and practicing the art of living well eventually come to understand how to find, use, and project their voice. For some people this comes early in life. For others, it may take a while or even decades. The point is not to worry as to when you find your voice, but to keep searching for it. You might even experience some degree of success while navigating your personal or professional life while still learning to speak for yourself. Afterall, that is what happened to award winning actor Meryl Streep.


The moment Meryl Streep read the script for The Devil Wears Prada, a 2006 American comedy-drama film directed by David Frankel, she knew it would be—in her words “Yuge.” But despite a truckload of awards and a reputation as the greatest actress on the planet for her award-winning work on screen and stage during the previous four decades, Streep had always been reluctant to negotiate for more pay.


Maybe it was the character Miranda Priestly, a fashion magazine editor so powerful she could terrify underlings without even raising her voice, that pushed her to do it. But the Oscar-winning actress felt emboldened. “The offer was to my mind slightly, if not insulting, not perhaps reflective of my actual value to the project,” Streep told Variety in a 2016 interview. “There was my ‘goodbye moment,’ and then they doubled the offer. I was 55, and I had just learned, at a very late date, how to deal on my own behalf.”


For many women, using their voice to deal on their own behalf is still a work in progress. A 2019 study reveals that while most women do not negotiate when it comes to a new job offer — those who try to get more money were generally successful. In a study of 1,008 adult women by Langer Research Associates, 64% said they did not try to negotiate their pay the last time they were hired. But out of those who did negotiate, a whopping 71% said they were generally successful. So why don’t women negotiate more? Fear seems to drive the hesitancy. Fear to appear selfish, fear of putting one’s needs before the good of the organization, and fear of being rejected are factors women should work through prior to negotiating. A lack of self-care contributes not speaking on one’s behalf as well.


One reason people practice so little self-care is that they allow it to fall by the wayside if their to-do list gets over-crowded. Laura Boxley discovered through her research that some people “might feel as though self-care is frivolous or selfish in stressful times.” F. Diane Barth echoed similar sentiment in Psychology Today when she wrote “A major problem for many people is time. With so many other things to do, self-care can feel selfish or indulgent.” Nicole Schwarz proposed another theory and wrote many people “have learned to live in chaos and have become comfortable with feeling exhausted and being overworked leaving no time for self-care.”


According to Kristin Neff, author of Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, the lack of self-reflection and self-care stemmed from “the great angst of modern life.” This angst, according to Neff, consists of a belief held by many: “No matter how hard we try, no matter how successful we are—it’s never enough. There is always someone richer, thinner, smarter, or more powerful than we are, someone who makes us feel like a failure in comparison.”


In her poem The Journey, poet Mary Oliver wrote about the need to stay true to your own voice and wrote:


“One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice…

little by little, as you left their voice behind,

the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own,

that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world,

determined to do the only thing you could do –

determined to save the only life that you could save.”


How often do you allow yourself to use your own voice to save the only life you could – your own?