There is a strong push for youth to find their voices; to use their voices and be empowered in their voices. The irony, however, is how society also drowns out youth voices in a quest to ‘empower them’. Social media, for example, is used by many young people; to say it’s wasted on youth is overlooking all the amazing things young people have done to elevate their own voices on social media.
The new generation do use their voices, but maybe not always in the way people are used to. For example, for a long time the LGBTQ+ community couldn’t openly live their lives; now more and more young people are coming out of the closet. That reflects young people finding their voice and using it.
Personally, growing up I was always taught to be quiet. I listened to what the elders had to say, and it was always their way or no way at all. The pressure to find my voice, especially politically, is draining. As a young black woman, so much about my life is a statement. By purely existing with my skin and gender I am carrying a lot of historically unheard voices.
I have learnt that finding your voice is beyond the think pieces people write online about societal struggles – yes, it’s the strong passion people have to fight for social justice, but it’s also the way young people choose to live their lives. Freely, loudly, and beyond society’s expectations of them. So much injustice is happening in their world; we cannot ignore it, but we also can’t all be activists and shouldn’t be pressured to feel as such.
The youth are living the realities they want to create for themselves. Just because some young people aren’t talking about politics and social issues, doesn’t mean they are not using their voices.
I am in a career that requires me to not only speak out, but also to talk a lot about my experiences, thoughts, and opinions – like this blog, for example! Yet it is still extremely hard for me to speak my mind generally. Finding my own voice means I must trust myself, which is something I have never been able to do. All my life I have associated speaking out as a form of disrespect, as I was raised in a household that beat me into thinking obedience was being quiet, and silence would always be rewarded.
Finding my own voice can be trusting my opinions; trusting I can achieve all the dreams I thought were impossible. It also means accepting that I don’t know enough to change the world out there but I can change my own one. Most days I suffer from the anxiety of questioning my voice. But I am friends with people who believe in themselves and strongly stand by their views. That inspires me everyday to trust my own voice, trust myself more – but it’s a work in progress.
So every time someone says youth must find their voices, I can’t help but think of the ones that have found it via social media, but are still unable to voice it in the traditional ways expected. The youth are empowered, the youth are using their voices but perhaps not always in the way the world wants them to. I hope many young people trust their voices and I hope it’s within their own time and in their own way.
Tell us: How do you use your voice in your everyday life?
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