Ending the Silence


I love silence. Open, quiet space in which to calm, to think, and feel. And I’m all about sound. Music that makes me want to move. Crashing waves. 

But when it comes to my own voice, my life has been full of messages and experiences that left me without peace when I’m quiet—and without joy when I’m speaking. 

I’ve avoided sharing my personal writing for years, despite:

  • having a long, successful career as a professional magazine writer and editor, writing instructor, published short story and essay writer, and book coach,

  • having numerous leadership positions in which I regularly speak my mind,

  • having written hundreds of pages of personal stories I’ve filed away, and

  • the fact that my coaching work is all about stories—listening deeply to people’s dreams and challenges, asking open questions, helping people gently unearth stories that illuminate why they think and react the way they do, then drafting a new vision for what’s next.

While I continue working on big projects behind the scenes, it’s been mystifying to me as to why I’ve held back on sharing my stories through blogs and newsletters.

This is something I’ve intended to do this for decades. DECADES, people.

What’s taken me so long? Want the honest answer? Terror.

I’ve had messages throughout my life that it’s better, and safer, to stay quiet.

  • As a kid, my school, church, and culture valued and praised me for my silence, not what I had to say.

  • In my family, I believed that my job was to add peace by keeping everything quiet. I’m a master at finding and stopping rattling sounds in cars.

  • I’ve had my life threatened by other people more than once—with weapons directed at my throat and verbal threats ordering me to remain silent.

  • Oh the men on mobile phones who rear ended my cars and gave me whiplash that caused physical damage to the muscles in my neck and throat: Five chose to put their desire to speak whenever and however they pleased over my right to live healthfully. 

  • As an adult woman in America, I’ve been talked over, talked at, talked down to, called names, and had my opinions dismissed more times than I can describe. Despite teaching at multiple universities. Despite being editor-in-chief of two national magazines.

We all have our things—the things that send us to frustration, fear, or shame. And sometimes those things come with fight, flight, or freeze.

There’s something about publicly speaking my own truth—as opposed to being witness and scribe to the stories of others—that has stopped me in my tracks, my body believing it was better to keep the secrets, to remain silent, to not make waves.

And yet I’ve known I needed to share what I’ve experienced and what I know.

Because I have things to say.

See I’ve been on a mission, for decades, to shine a light on underrepresented voices and perspectives, and to help people who keep putting their heads down and doing the hard work to also rise up and share their wisdom.

Recently I came to the conclusion that as a woman who’s had the unique set of experiences I’ve had, I need to rise up and speak, too. So I’m starting to share my stories and what I’ve learned. I’m finally vocal on social media. I’m actively at work on a book—which may turn into three books—that’s been waiting for my attention for a long, long time.

When I look back, I’ve been fighting for my voice my entire life.

What helped me take my most recent steps toward amplification was naming the people and organizations whose judgment I feared—and assessing whether I would actually be burned at the stake if I spoke up. I needed to recognize that I’ve created hard-won safety from within. That truth and love are more compelling to me than fear of judgment and shaming. That it is time to claim my own voice in the chorus.

So if you’re struggling with fear of using your voice, or fear of judgment, reach out. Let’s talk. If you simply need a witness to your story, know that I’m here and I will listen.

Karen Olson