Posted: Feb 27 2017

Hi SparkFire Girls,

When I was four years old, I was very shy. Not just the “won’t-look-you-in-the-eye” kind of shy, but the kind of shy that would compel me to duck under a table in a restaurant when my family was approached by someone we knew. I was also known to hide behind my mother’s back when someone tried to talk to me, and I was also quite fond of just putting my head down when spoken to — I figured no one would want to try to talk to the top of my head, so maybe I would finally be left alone if that’s all they saw.

Use Your Voice Headband

However, I wasn’t just shy. I was generally a quiet kid; I never felt the need to be constantly talking. When I began school though, being shy and quiet was not to my advantage. I had no large table to hide under, no mother next to me with which to shield myself from unwanted attention. I was surrounded by kids who had no problem speaking up and also had no problem being the center of attention. So in addition to learning the alphabet, addition and subtraction, I also had to learn how to conceal my shyness. I had to learn how to be like everyone else: talkative, chatty, loud.

While I mastered my classes each year in school, it remained a challenge to speak up and assert my voice regularly. But there was one forum in which all of those trapped thoughts that had long been inside my head came to life, where I learned to use my voice: writing.

Nicole Funaro - Take Her Lead

For as long as I can remember, I always loved to write. From short stories and poems as a kid to essays and even research papers in school, when I was writing, I was free. I was able to let my light shine and be free to express exactly what was on my mind without worrying about being heard over the countless other voices in the room. After all, writing is a physical manifestation of spoken words, so there was no way to miss what I had to say — my words were printed and not going anywhere until they were read. Soon, I began to dabble in blogging, first writing about music and then about the college experience. Although no one likely read them, I felt heard and seen. My words were permanent, and that gave me power. Finding my the power of my voice through writing even made me more outspoken beyond the page; I found myself saying exactly what was on my mind with no reservations, and that, too, gave me power.

Once I found this power, I wanted to find a way to ensure that my words made a difference. I wanted to make sure that if someone was taking the time to read what I had to say, that they were going to walk away feeling inspired to use their own voice, inspired to find what gives them power. And as a young woman who was once a quiet child, there was nothing I wanted more than for young, shy girls like me to feel like their voices mattered.

That’s when I decided to start TakeHerLead.com, my labor of love for almost two years. Dedicated to highlighting inspiring women — both famous and not — who are using their voices and talents to make a difference, TakeHerLead.com is all about proving that women of all ages not only deserve to be comfortable in their own skin, but are also allowed to speak up, assert their strength, pursue their passions and let their lights shine. I was hoping that, through my writing, I could spark it forward and give to others the same gifts that writing has given to me: the belief that my voice mattered. Because the truth is, no matter how shy or quiet I may have been, my voice always mattered. I just needed to find writing to make myself believe it.

girls jump for nicole

So whatever it is that makes you feel powerful, that makes you feel heard, that makes you feel seen or makes you feel strong, go do it. Do it for yourself, and do it to inspire the countless others who may be just like you. It won’t be easy at first to share that spark inside of you, but I promise that once you do, you’ll ignite a fire in the hearts of others.

Be The Spark!

Nicole Funaro
Creator and Head Writer of TakeHerLead.com
SparkFire Ignitor Ambassador


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