You Deserve to Speak Your Mind
Your thoughts and feelings are important. Yet it can be hard for many of us to remember that. More outgoing people can make our thoughts feel small. Aggressive people can make our feelings feel unimportant. It is ever so important to remember that others around you are people just like yourself, and there is no reason why they should get to speak their mind and not you. But having the courage and readiness to speak out takes practice.
Learning to speak your mind is as essential as learning math, writing, or science. It will help you with making friends, finding jobs, and building the life you want to live. For a lot of people, problems with expressing themselves as kids can carry over into adulthood. A 2011 study from Educational Research and Review found that 90% of students who were involved in debate programs graduated on time. For students not involved in debates, that number was 75%.
You do not need to join a debate program to work on this skill. You can start at home with your parents and family where you might be more comfortable. This can be with small decisions like what you would like for dinner. Talk to those you trust about boundaries. Just like fences that keep people out of certain areas, we need to know our own physical and emotional boundaries and respect those of others. That way you understand what you want and do not want, and how to talk to others about important things. It is okay to say “no” when you do not want to do something.
Talking and expressing your thoughts and feelings improves the part of the brain used for language development and verbal skills. School can be scary if you do not feel ready to speak your mind. If that is the case, start small. Set a goal to raise your hand at least once a day in the classroom. Answer the teacher’s simplest questions or just ask to go to the washroom. Your brain will slowly learn that it is not only okay to share your thoughts or ask for something, but perfectly normal as well.
Look for extracurricular or after-school programs. Getting involved in sports or a club teaches us how to cooperate with others. It also shows the importance of compromise; you have wants and needs just like the students you are talking to, and everyone needs to find a way to work together. This will help you become more assertive, which is a positive thing. It means you can tell people what you think and even disagree with what the other person is saying in a healthy way. It is unhealthy to stay quiet and keep these things to yourself. Aggressiveness, however, is also a problem. The difference between assertive and aggressive is when you start attacking other people’s opinions and feelings and treat yours as more valuable. Your thoughts and feelings are neither more nor less important.
School offers lots of opportunities to learn how to be assertive and speak your mind. You can practice at home, in the classroom, and in extracurricular activities and clubs with fellow students. Just like math or science, it takes daily effort to learn and get better. Sometimes it will not go well. But you cannot let those bad moments keep you quiet. Start with small steps. Remember that you have value just by being a human being. Speak your mind and you will improve not only your life, but the lives of your friends and family as well.
Barack, Lauren. “Teaching students to speak their mind.” Education Dive. https://www.educationdive.com/news/teaching-students-to-speak-their-mind/524909/
Parsons, Deidre. “10 Steps for Teaching Your Kids How to Be Assertive.” A Fine Parent. https://afineparent.com/strong-kids/how-to-be-assertive.html