If you have a young daughter and you support female empowerment, chances are the topic of The Little Mermaid has come up in your conversations with other parents. In case you never saw the Disney version, it’s a 1989 film about a young mermaid with a beautiful voice who is always singing. One day, she sees a handsome human prince and decides she wants legs instead of a fish tail, so she can go chase after him. The evil Sea Witch makes a deal with her: if she gives up her voice, she can have legs. However, while mute, she has to get the prince to kiss her – or she will lose her voice and freedom forever.
It was inevitable that our daughter would watch it eventually, and when she did (it’s been a dozen times now) we wanted to help her see the silliness in the movie’s messages. Of course, we wanted her to know that you don’t need to sacrifice a core part of yourself in order to receive someone’s love. And that having at least one good talk is usually a worthwhile step before getting married – especially if you’re not the same species. But the big thing for us was the main character’s willingness to give away something that’s been suppressed in females for centuries: her voice.
To me, our voice is one of our most special powers. Not only do we use it – verbally or otherwise – to make our wishes known, it’s our primary tool for personal expression. Expression is one of the main ways in which we expand. And expansion is, I believe, a key element of true health. Through expression, we expand both within ourselves and beyond ourselves.
Through expression we also share useful ideas. It’s how we teach, and how the many evolve through the evolution of the individual. It’s how we collaborate. We need voices in order to join our minds and generate works that are greater than the sum of our many parts.
We use our voices to express our inspiration and to inspire others. Words change lives. When I consider the many words that have changed mine – words from my teachers, friends, and family, words from books and TED talks, and words that have arisen in my own mind – I sometimes wonder about their origin. The words that have the greatest impact on my consciousness, how often did they originate from a source other than the one that’s speaking to me? Perhaps they began with an ancient human in the throes of inspiration, from whom they have been passed along, voice to voice, creating a chain of illumination along the way, over hundreds of years.
And finally, more simply and sometimes more profound than any ideas we might convey, are the pleasing sounds we use our voices to create. Like the mermaid.
This week, I encourage you to take a few moments to ask yourself, “What would it look like if I were to fully embrace the power of my voice?”
Dr. Peter Borten