When I was born my Mum told me I came out talking. She said I could talk under water with a mouth full of marbles. And she wasn’t wrong. I have gone on to make a career out of talking.
For 21 years I worked in the youth and community sector and took pride in caring for people who were experiencing social disadvantage. I listened to other people’s stories. I heard stories of hurt, tragedy, struggle, triumph, survival. I heard stories of vulnerability. I talked to help others understand their options, how to access resources, support and recognise their strengths.
A series of significant events impacted my life and suddenly I was lost, unsure of the future, incredibly sad but most of all I found myself silent. Unable to communicate my own vulnerability. I felt weak.
It took me a long time to find my voice again. I had to be ready, the words had to find their way out from deep down in my gut. I had to exhale, open my mouth wide and let the words tumble out. When they did I found myself sharing my stories of loss, grief, grit and the gifts I received. I rediscovered my strength. My words.
In 2017 I stood on the big red dot and spoke at TEDx Canberra, I exposed my vulnerability and shared my words for others to hear. The response was powerful. The audience moved, felt understood and in that moment, less alone. That day helped me understand the true power of words.
Storytelling is a critical part of the human experience. When we remain silent, we reinforce the myths, the shame, the guilt and the isolation we can feel. By acknowledging that life is one hell of a bumpy ride, that perfection just doesn’t exist and anyone who says it does is a fool – we are far more likely to be able to support one another, find ways to ask for help and most importantly be able to receive the help of others.
This is my gift as a woman. Being able to communicate for impact, communicate to care, communicate for change but most of all communicate to make a real difference in the lives of others. Women are powerful in so many ways. Words are one of them. This International Women’s Day I encourage everyone to use their words to make impact. It may be a compliment, noticing someone’s efforts or delivering a speech. It may be sharing someone else’s words, telling others about something another woman is achieving. Like anything in this world – we can do good or we can do harm. Consciously make 2020 the year you use your words for good.
Melanie will be our keynote speaker at the next Network of Possibility event on 18 March and will share her thoughts on strategies for wellbeing and success in the face of inevitable changes in our social filters as we age.
Book your ticket here