How to Find Your Voice and Face Your Fears

Finding your own voice can be daunting, especially in a world of bullies and bureaucrats. But before you slink into the corner and pretend your opinions and needs don't matter take heed of Senator Nellie Riviera O'Reilly's wise words on how you can speak up for yourself and be heard, no matter what odds you're up against.
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You may feel disempowered right now but that perceived weakness could actually be your strength if harnessed correctly. Senator Nellie O'Reilly now has the illustrious title of being the U.S. Virgin Island's first female senator and the role of fighting for the rights of others, but she too was once an underdog.

Raised on the island of St. Croix to Hispanic parents, at the age of 2 she was diagnosed with a congenital heart condition that resulted in her being forced to watch life from the sidelines for much of her childhood. Rather than opting out, it ignited a desire to be more involved in life and to be at the forefront of the action as an adult. Her Hispanic accent was also the subject of much teasing as a child. While staying silent might have been tempting at times, O'Reilly instead worked twice as hard as her peers practicing how to pronounce each word in a mirror until she had her peers' accent mastered.

Being the underdog forced her to work harder and made her who she is today.

As a senator, Nellie is often met with a great deal of resistance. Rather than pull back, Nellie says it's important to put up a fight whether it be in the senate or in life.

"You have to prove to your colleagues that you mean business. Show people that it's an important issue for you and it better become an important issue to them."

It's easy to lose your confidence and conviction when you are met with a seemingly endless chorus of "no's", but Senator O'Reilly says that if one door closes another one will open and if it doesn't, she suggests you "kick it down!"

The secret to staying motivated is to remember that "no" can often mean "not now". There are always other ways to make it happen; it could be as simple as asking a different person, framing your argument differently or simply waiting and asking at a later date.

Many people feel that they don't deserve to be heard because they are not educated or an expert in the area in which they wish to speak up. Senator O'Reilly believes that we all have the right to be heard. However, if your confidence is suffering or lack of knowledge is getting in the way of achieving what you want, she suggests becoming dedicated to learning and acquiring as much knowledge as you possibly can.

Never forget that Passion + Knowledge = Power