Speaking Up: What Are We So Afraid Of?

Speaking up… In my post last week on authenticity I referenced the notion of speaking up as one component to authentic freedom. Of all the 5 points I listed, speaking up seemed to bring on the most feedback. I heard things like, “I really need to work on speaking up”, “I don’t speak up enough”, and “thank you for giving me permission to speak up for myself”.

This got me thinking: What is it about speaking up – bringing voice to our feelings and thoughts – that causes so much anxiety and apprehension? I realized this is worth exploring…

I’ve most certainly struggled with openly sharing my concerns, my feelings, my needs, and my objections. I’ve ignored the voice in the back of my throat telling me something’s not right, or not right for me. I still struggle with this. I’m getting better at it, but there is definitely room for progress. I am aware that there are certain people I’m more comfortable sharing with, but even with my closest ones I still hold back from time to time.

So why is this? Well, you can blame our old familiar friend FEAR, again. Seems like every time there is an emotional hold up, fear is standing there with that guilty look in its face. Damn you, fear.

Fear of what, though? Let’s break it down…

If I imagine myself in a situation where I’m anxious or uncomfortable stating a concern, I can usually point it to a few culprits: fear of rejection, fear of relationship breakdown (i.e. disconnection), and fear of the other party being angry with me, which I suppose goes back to fear #2. Actually, in fact, I think all 3 of these mimic one another. The same fear face wearing a different mask. (You, I am sure, have your own fear frenemies to contend with. They may look like mine, or maybe not. I’d love to hear about them, actually…)

The fear of disconnection: This is the killer. The killer of authentic self expression. The killer of speaking up and speaking out. “What if they don’t like what I say? What if they get mad? What if they don’t like me, or worse, don’t want me anymore???? What will happen to me, then? What will happen to us? I better just keep my mouth shut.”

Bad choice.

What happens when you shut up, shut it down, and shut it in? Ah ha! Disconnection! How ironic. You disconnect from yourself in this very moment and you disconnect from your partner. Double disconnect. And, disconnection from yourself is about a million times worse than any disconnection you’ll experience with someone else. A million times.

So then, what happens when you do speak up? When you do speak out? When you bring voice and sound to the truth lodged in your throat?

For starters: you bring value and validation to yourself, from yourself. You permit yourself to own this value regardless of the response received. You acknowledge, accept, and approve of yourself in that very moment. And take it from me, it feels damn good.

Now, from here you may or may not like the response you receive from your partner. Now it is their turn to speak up, to authentically express their voice. Your words may clash, they may collide, the may crumble under pressure. Or, they might land softly together with understanding, openness, and a genuine interest in knowing one another’s truth. This is ideal. This is not easy. This takes work, practice, and patience. But it can’t happen if you don’t speak.

It is okay to need. It is okay to want. It is okay to disagree. It is okay to fear. Just don’t let it stop you.

What I’ve found as I’ve grown more secure in speaking up is this:

1) When I shut it in, when I don’t speak the words end up speaking for me. What do I mean by this? The words, they find a way out. They sneak out, explode out, or they pour out. They can only stay in so long. And if I don’t take charge of putting them out there myself, well, they take charge of me. And it’s not pretty.

2) When I speak up, when I speak out, I am more able and capable of speaking my words in a manner that can be received. I can speak calmly. I can speak clearly. I can listen in return. I can feel proud of myself in this moment.

I understand I have these two choices. I also understand that all my past attempts at avoiding disconnection inevitably lead to disconnection both from myself and my partner. Thankfully, I now understand that speaking, fully, leads to greater connection. True authentic fulfilling connection. And on the occasion where this doesn’t happen, I realize the relationship wasn’t true to begin with. And who needs that anyway?

Speak up. Do it for you. Do it for connection. Just do it.

5 thoughts on “Speaking Up: What Are We So Afraid Of?

  1. Great post! Really enjoyed reading this. I feel like for me it wasn’t until I had kids and then again when I turned thirty that I became more confident in speaking up for myself, my opinions, my children and my family:

  2. So perfect you wrote on this today. Yesterday at church when they were talking about speaking up for Christ I thought of the mental health aspect of speaking up and truth telling no matter what!

  3. I love this. I am definitely one to speak up but tend to feel defeated if I don’t get the response I want.
    This instead can be an opportunity for me to stop and hear the other speak up and really listen and instead of waiting for what I want to hear. Thank you for your wisdom 🙌

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