A few weeks ago I did an exercise called motivational interviewing, and uncovered something pretty big. I went in to the exercise focusing on the intention “being ok with things not being ok”. And came out with the realization that the reason I struggle when things aren’t going well, is not actually about the things, it’s about trusting myself to be able to handle it.
I reflected on a particular situation, where a friend of mine was speaking on some heavy topics online, and I wanted to participate, but was fearful of being judged for my opinion, or perhaps my ignorance. In that particular circumstance, I did speak up, but I began to look at why that was so scary. My surface answer is something like, I don’t know enough about the topic, so I can’t really have an opinion. It feels almost like I don’t have an opinion. But as I work on myself I see that I do, it’s just something I’ve masked for so long for fear of what others will think. And in that situation, what scared me was not actually that my friend, or his friends, would judge me or think I’m ignorant (because, if they did…so what? Then what?). It was that I didn’t trust myself to have the conversation with them, and work it out. Or I didn’t trust that someone would ever listen to me, especially if he is saying something different. This is certainly because I respect him, and think he is intelligent, rightfully so - but the important part is that it comes down to not trusting myself.
It comes down to not trusting my voice, or that my voice is worthy of being heard.
Often I hear people (especially women) something like, “no I don’t mind, really!”. Now, sometimes, these people are completely lying, and truthfully, they are holding on to it underneath, wishing and waiting for someone pay them back for everything they do. But most often - these people really do mean it! They really don’t mind doing the extra work, or doing something they didn’t want to do, or doing a favor for a friend. They are giving, nurturing, supportive people. That’s the truth.
They also are subtly telling themselves and others, over and over again, that their opinion/needs/time are not important. It’s not a big deal to give up hours of their time for a friend, or to go to a different restaurant than they wanted. And while that’s so lovely, and is part of why they are great friends, it is also a subtle reminder that they are not as worthy of support, or the food they wanted, as someone else.
And perhaps a little restaurant change and favor here and there is not an issue, but what becomes an issue is when they no longer make their own decisions. It’s easier to have someone else choose the restaurant, because then if it’s bad, at least it’s not on them. It’s easier to let go of an argument and keep the peace, than to actually speak up and communicate what they need, because then if the argument goes badly, they didn’t do it. It’s easier to do nice things for people, than to actually know when to say no or when to ask for help, because then no one can say they aren’t nice.
So it’s the same thing: not trusting yourself to be able to handle the uncomfortable conversation, other people’s comments, or a decision that didn’t work out so well. Not trusting that your voice is important and necessary.
Communicating your needs, and making your own decisions is essential to you creating the life you want. I’m not saying don’t be flexible, or supportive, or easy-going. But just know that without speaking up about what you want, and trusting yourself to deal with whatever the repercussions are - you will never get what you want. If you don’t choose it, you won’t get it. If you don’t speak up about it, no one will ever know that’s what you needed. If you don’t ask for help, you will continually find yourself without help. Trust yourself. Know that you can handle the consequences of your choices, and voice them to your community.
As you begin to uncover your truth and start to speak on it, remember that those around you will not expect it. Remember that they have been conditioned to think that you don’t need help, or that you don’t mind doing the favor. They might not understand you speaking your voice at first. But it is worth it, to undo that conditioning, and allow yourself to step up in your life.
*A caveat, if you feel like you are not struggling with speaking up, perhaps check in and see if you speak up so much that you cut off those that are more passive from making their own decisions. This is a result of a very similar root, so be willing to be patient with others, and trust that you can handle it even if you don’t get to call all the shots. (As I’m writing this, I’m like oh yea- that’s me too. Hah! We can literally be on both ends of the spectrum. Be willing to see that you fit somewhere in here ;) ).
You are worthy of being heard. Your opinions, time, needs, and desires matter. It’s ok to ask for what you want, as long as you take responsibility for what you are asking. Trust yourself to be able to handle the result of your decisions, so that you can speak on them.
Be willing to see your truth. Trust that you can handle the outcome of that choice. Voice your choice.