Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about people and change.

What does it take for us to act and think differently? How do we know that the things we do and think about are truly different or even better than, say, a week or a year ago?

For me at least, over the past year, I think it’s safe to say that many things about me have changed and continue to change—and for the better. Sometimes, especially in conflict, it is easy to think that others will never change and that they are the stubborn ones, when in reality, it is we who refuse to change.

But when we do—and that change is often necessarily slow—what do we leave behind? What about our former selves did we cast aside, and why?

One thing about me is that I have never been quite sure of what I want, or when I do, how to make it known. Perhaps it’s about finding my voice. While I still struggle with this in various aspects of my life, I like to think I am becoming better at knowing what I want and carving a clearer path for myself.

Becoming more sure of myself also means cutting things (and people) out of my life, accepting their superfluity and even harm.

The challenge then becomes how to find and maintain all that we do care about. Recently I experienced exactly how easy it can be to give up and adopt the laissez-faire approach. In those times, it can be nearly impossible to see or understand why something is worth the effort to save or worth the pain to work on. Turns out all I needed was a little hard shove and realization of the regret if I had done nothing.

So with the mistakes of past experiences, I am leaving behind silence. When it matters, I will make the conscious effort to recognize my own power and right to make my concerns heard, selfishly so.

Try it. If you truly care about something, then that something or someone deserves to hear you speak up. Loudly.