This is big. I want you to step to the edge with me and let go, really let go, of the expert thing.
I’ve travelled far and wide talking to brilliant women, and again and again I see us shying away from sharing our voices. We are convinced we aren’t “expert” enough on the topics that we long to speak, or write or teach about.
Maybe you want to want to teach about surviving trauma, but you didn’t study trauma survival. You only lived it.
Or you want to speak about parenting special needs children, but those other people are the experts. You only did it once.
Maybe you’d like to teach about reinventing oneself after divorce, but you have no formal training in that – you just did it yourself and have been helping some friends do the same.
So you are not talking, not launching, not teaching. We’ve got to change that.
Of course, I have tremendous respect for expertise. I think we are blessed –absolutely blessed – to live in an era when information is is produced and distributed with greater volume and accessibility than ever before. We are blessed to have diverse, specialized educational programs that allow us to develop experts on pretty much any topic you can name. As a society, we need our experts. They are incredibly important.
And yet. And yet. Somehow, many women of conscience of internalized the idea that because they aren’t an expert in…(you name it – climate change, child abuse, art, local politics, etc.) they can’t really speak up. They don’t have much to offer. They shouldn’t be the one to write the op-ed, launch the campaign, start the business.
As a child, you may have been shamed for not knowing enough, told you didn’t know enough to speak up. I’ll never forget the time, when, as a child, I was talking to a grownup about how war was insane and one day we could evolve beyond it. “Well dear, that’s very nice, but war will always be with us. It’s the way the world works.” What was I really being told in that moment? “Let the status quo truth we all agree on out here in the world displace what you know to be true in your heart.” Ah, got it. Message received.
I want to ask you to change this in yourself, to change any form of the “well, I’m not an expert” thing rumbling around in your head.
I’ve come to believe that, within the context of this culture, it is a rite of passage, a milepost on the journey to empowerment, to speak out on the topics where we don’t have formal expertise. It is a reclaiming of voice, of citizenship, of conscience.
It is a particularly important rite of passage for women because, whatever the topic, the body of knowledge that makes up “formal expertise” tends to be shaped by a male perspective – either because the field is still dominated by male leaders or because the foundations and basic paradigms of the field were developed before women had access to it.
Speak on the things that move your heart. Speak about the things that cause you outrage. Speak about the things you’ve experienced and what you’ve come to believe as a result of those experiences. Speak about your vision for how some part of our world could be different.
I’ll be writing more about this “expert” topic, because I believe it’s part of what is at the center of the knot – the knot we feel in our chests, in our throats, when we lean towards speaking up but then don’t. We must unravel it.
I love all of you.
Thanks for reading,
photo credit: Sharon McCutcheon