It seems like one of those easy things, speaking up.
I mean, all you have to do is open your mouth and let the words flow out. Yet for some reason, this is an incredibly challenging task for many people.
Well, there is a whole plethora of reasons but speaking from personal experience, I was encouraged to be a “good girl” growing up. This often meant not speaking up, not disagreeing with what the people around me said and often it meant going with the flow even if I didn’t want to.
By the time I was 18 years old, I was heavily conditioned to be a people-pleaser. One of the greatest challenges of being a people-pleaser is to speak loudly and clearly. To use the word NO at will used to be particularly difficult for me.
I spent my 20’s and 30’s rewiring myself around this, finding my voice and really connecting with who I am and what I want. Learning to say no has been one of the greatest skills I have ever acquired!
As Oprah Winfrey says “No is a complete sentence”. I love that statement!
Working with my coaching clients and generally observing others, the five main reasons that I have identified about why people don’t speak up are because:
1.Your identity is very tied up with being the “go-to person”: if you are the solver of everyone else’s challenges, you take on things even when you don’t want to. It is who you are, so it becomes challenging to say no. Often what happens is this person eventually wakes up and says “why am doing all this stuff when I don’t really want to be?”
2. Saying YES is easier than saying NO: many of us have been conditioned to please other people. What that often means is you “go with the flow”, even if the flow isn’t where you want to go. Saying no can often prompt feelings of guilt, fear and even shame.
3.You want to avoid conflict: there are few people on the planet who relish conflict, then there are those who would do ANYTHING to avoid it! I mean, nice people don’t fight with others! Conflict can seem very scary and often is unpredictable. If we lack confidence or are not self-assured, then speaking up can seem too challenging if the possible result is conflict.
4. Your Inner Critic has a VERY loud voice: a person who has conditioned themselves not to speak up has got a very vocal inner critic on the inside. This critic continually questions, judges and cautions you on speaking up and allowing your voice to be heard: “That will sound stupid, don’t speak up”, “Don’t say that, you might get in trouble or upset them”, “what happens if what I say is wrong?”.
5. Your belief is that your opinions don’t matter anyway: what is the point of speaking up anyway, no one will listen! When your self-worth has been crushed, you can feel worthless or you believe you have nothing of value to offer, it becomes incredibly challenging to speak up and share your voice.
You may have identified yourself in some or many of the list above. Yet what is most important is how do you move forward and truly start sharing your voice with the world around you?
Here are my five tips to develop the practice of authentically speaking up and sharing your voice:
1.Notice your inner critic and challenge it: what is the voice in your head actually saying to you? How truthful is what it is saying? So often we don’t even challenge the voice of the inner critic – we merely accept it as the truth. Our inner critic lives very closely to fear, it really just wants to keep us safe and small. Start to challenge it: “Is that really real?”, “will they really stop loving/caring for/wanting to be near me if I speak up?”, “how do I know what will happen if I share my thoughts?”, “what is the worst thing that can happen if I speak up?”.
2. Connect with your body: Our bodies NEVER lie!! That feeling in your stomach that is screaming at you to speak up right now is your intuition – your gut instinct. Every time we ignore our body’s signals we are betraying ourselves. The wisdom that our body holds is so much more connected than the story our mind is telling us. Your heart knows the truth and it longs to be heard. By speaking up, you are releasing that energy and this is the very best thing you can do for your overall health.
3. Treat this like a science experiment: Become the Mad Scientist in your world. Observe yourself, try different things and see what happens. Learn from the experiments you conduct, draw conclusions, make changes and try again. Test different things! By framing speaking up as an experiment or a science project, the energy around it shifts. It no longer feels so life and death, it becomes freer and more fun. Trust me, no one is going to die by you speaking your truth. If they do, please let me know and I will amend this blog immediately.
4. Find a teacher/coach/mentor: If speaking up really is something that strikes fear in to your heart then actively seek someone out who is skilled in this area. They can help you learn new strategies around finding your voice, creating healthy boundaries, becoming friends with the word no and developing the courage to speak from your heart. The quickest way to learn a new skill is model someone who is already excelling in this area.
5. Have a love affair with yourself: The more self-love you have, the more confident you are in your own skin. The more confident you are in your own skin, the more comfortable you are to speak up and stand in your truth. The more you speak up and stand in your truth, the more it becomes second nature. Before you know it, it is no longer such a momentous task!
By speaking up – authentically and courageously – you will further deepen the relationship you have with yourself. Every time you do it, it is like giving yourself a beautiful and loving hug. All of sudden, you will notice that you aren’t seeking love from those external forces (for example, your partner, family or job) because you are filling your own tank up by honouring yourself through your voice.
Keep in mind, speaking your truth doesn’t have to be a bombshell or some life-changing words. It could be as simple as speaking up about which restaurant you would like to eat dinner at, or telling your friends that you are going home early because you are very tired from the week at work.
In fact, these sorts of small examples are where we build the muscle so that when it comes time to speak up on the big issues, we are already practised at saying what is in our heart.
Remember, your voice is always there within you. You know it longs to be heard, in fact you can feel it in your body when you deny its expression.
Speak up, speak loudly, be free.