The Cost of Silence and Learned Helplessness

Today I am referencing the incredibly inspiring book, Soul of a Citizen: Living With Conviction In Challenging Times. While there are many eye-opening, perspective broadening topics in this book, I want to focus on two topics that really hit home: The Cost of Silence & Learned Helplessness.

Real Talk

Maybe you have never had this problem, but I have certainly spent a significant amount of valuable time in my one life feeling voiceless and helpless to the world. With focus on my Zero Waste journey, I was once told, “Aww… Kathleen, you know you can’t change the world, right?” Hey, I never said I single-handedly could change the world, I simply believe that my efforts, along with other Zero Waste advocates will make a difference and lead to global change!

If you have ever had someone undermine you, your passion, or your potential before, you will understand how bad it hurts to hear those words.  I felt embarrassed and helpless, therefore, fell silent…again. To this day I do not know why I let that get me down as much as it did, but it happened, and I am glad because it brought me to where I am today. Luckily, at the time of my unwanted silence rebirth, I began reading Soul of a Citizen and something clicked. I knew what I had to do: move on.

You know you best, and you need to do what is best for you and what you believe in. Whether it be significant others, educators, leaders, peers, or even family telling you that the world is too big and too far gone – your efforts are small and, therefore, meaningless – they are wrong. Every person has the power to be part of change and it is not too late.


“The Cost of Silence”

“…silence is more costly than speaking out, because it requires the ultimate sacrifice– the erosion of our spirit.”

As humans, we have an innate sense to want to communicate. Whether it be through body language, voice, or actions, we desire interaction with other humans or animals in order to maintain a happy, healthy life filled with love and growth. I think a major problem is that there are many people who were taught that silence is safe. I believe, and this book suggests, that if we chose to remain silent, we are essentially swallowing poison. Suppressing our desires to be heard causes great internal stress which will cause you to feel resentment or depression.

Some may argue that voicing your words can have negative backlash which will ultimately lead to the same resentful, depressed outcome as remaining silent. I see the point, but I do not agree. If you choose to remain silent you will always wonder “what if”. If you speak up and things go poorly, you at least know the truth. Remaining silent will not get you any answers, therefore, silence will always ultimately hurt you. Speaking out will always lead you to truth and clarity.

“Learned Helplessness”

“America’s predominate culture insists that little we do can matter. It teaches us not to get involved in shaping the world we will pass on to our children. It encourages us to leave such important decisions to others — whether they be corporate or government leaders…”

Learned Helplessness is when we allow others to make us feel voiceless, powerless, and/or useless. While there are plenty of people who do not let others effect them like the way I mentioned I have done, I believe Learned Helplessness is still extremely common throughout the world. I know there are many people just like me. Learned Helplessness is not something people deserve. Even if people do not agree with what you have to say, you still have the right to speak.

When we begin to feel insignificant to the world, we tend to withdraw. From withdrawal comes silence. By us silencing ourselves, we are not feed our innate sense to communicate. Ultimately, we are *psychosomatically paralyzing ourselves. (*Unable to think or act normally due to fear and internal conflict). When people suffer from the illusion of powerlessness, it allows others to gain more power than they deserve.


What We Can Do

“Whatever our situations, we all face a choice. We can ignore the problems that lie just beyond our front doors; we can allow decisions to be made in our names that lead to a meaner and more desperate world.  We can yell at the TV newscasters and complain about how bad things are… or we can work, as well as we can, to shape a more generous common future.”

It takes a collective effort to make a change. Individual pieces are what make up a collection. Therefore, there needs to be individuals making efforts, so, collectively, a change can and will happen. If every individual thought they could not make a difference in the world, so they remained silent and feeling helpless, there would be no change. Imagine that.


Thank you!

Please feel free to contact me with any Zero Waste related questions/comments/tips/experiences, etc! Do not forget to share this post on your social media page! Let’s be friends on Facebook,  Instagram , Twitter , and YouTube too!

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