My mother would often tell me when I was younger that “there is a time and a place for everything”. It’s a sentiment that I carry with me to this day. I understand that now is the time to speak up for what matters. But in fact, it is always “the time” to speak up, when in situations that are unjust or cause suffering for others. Yet, I admit that I have not always found this easy to do. I have drawn a blank in search of the right words to say, or ducked out of a conversation to avoid being singled out, afraid of rejection or retaliation. However, I can say that through my work on MAPS, I’ve learned greater courage and clarity to stay true to myself and my convictions.
Articulating my thoughts has been a longtime struggle for me. Regardless of the topic in discussion, I was sometimes triggered to feel fearful of other speakers, or overwhelmed by a strong, heated or passionate tone in a conversation. I tended to react in one of two ways. One was to feel so dazed that nothing would come to mind. The other was to feel apathetic and judgmental, with thoughts like “Whatever. I don’t want to get involved. It’s a waste of my time and energy to deal with these people.” So I would offer silence, nods, or try to redirect the conversation. After these encounters, I would feel disappointed and upset with myself for not being able to speak in a way that resonated with me. I often wished that I could confidently express what I believed to be true and ignite conversations that encouraged inclusiveness and a feeling of security for everyone.
Over the years as the Production Manager at Parvati Magazine and the Administration Lead at the Parvati Foundation (in addition to supporting roles I play on other portfolios), I have had countless opportunities to speak up about MAPS. For the sake of all life, we need to swiftly reach the masses with this cause on a global scale. This has been the perfect recipe for me to challenge my limiting beliefs. Whether speaking about MAPS among a crowd or one-on-one, I was sometimes met with indifference or argumentative responses. Sometimes people would try to tell me I was overly ambitious, or to direct me on what I should do instead. Because of this, there were instances where I didn’t want to talk about what I did at the Parvati Foundation. When I did speak, at times I would fumble my words or trail off. Other times, I would sugarcoat things, or conversely become pushy. These were all lose-lose encounters that I wanted to change.
Through Parvati’s coaching and encouragement, I knew I had to find a place of peace about the outcome of my actions, and approach my communications with enthusiasm and confidence. “Know your own value” is what she repeatedly says to our team. In times of certitude and calm, my written word and conversations were clearer, full of spark, and aligned with my instincts and stance. I didn’t feel attached to what might come to pass. I felt happier and a sense of freedom. This has given me the courage to continue in this way.
Having had the opportunity to experience both fear and calm around speaking, I am more willing now to use my voice, and whenever possible, follow up to offer clarity in situations where it was lacking. While the fear is still there at times and I may not ace every encounter that comes my way, I now hold myself to a new standard of courage and honesty when faced with the inner question, “What do I say now?” Without these opportunities at the Parvati Foundation, I believe that this growth would not have happened as quickly or profoundly as it has. I cannot deny the power of the voice to inspire action and touch people’s hearts, whether it is soft, loud, fierce or gentle. I know that when I use my voice from my heart and truth, I serve myself and our world.
Joy Elkayam is the Administrative Lead for Parvati Foundation and the Production Manager at Parvati Magazine. She holds an MSc in Health Promotion, and coordinated health research and regional cancer screening initiatives before following her heart into early childhood education.