A number of people have asked me to help them find their voice. They realize they haven’t been able to express how they feel or what they want in certain situations. A backlog of emotions or the unintended explosion of emotions are what usually bring them to this place of wanting to deal with it once and for all.
I have a long personal history with this subject. Looking back over my life, especially the early years of adolescence and young adulthood, I can recount a number of situations where I didn’t say what I thought or what I wanted. And I can look back to each of those moments and see the mess (of varying scale) I created by not speaking up.
I didn’t have the self-awareness or wisdom at the time to ask myself some helpful questions like, “Why didn’t I say it?” or “What do I think will happen if I say what I think or want?” In hindsight my answer is clear. It was fear. Fear I’ll get my feelings hurt or hurt someone else’s feelings, fear they will be mad at me, won’t like me, turn on me, leave me, hate me, hurt me…goodness it’s amazing I ever spoke at all. Fear I’d appear unkind, fear I’d get bullied or fear it would start an argument and to make an obvious point, I was not okay with conflict.
Was I right? I don’t know because I never gave them or me a chance to find out.
Because I didn’t have the knowledge at the time to ask myself those questions, I tucked away the feelings and behaved like nothing happened. As most of you know, there is no “away” so wherever I tucked those feelings became a backlog of emotions, some of it anger and resentment believing myself oppressed by others that I couldn’t speak my truth.
In more unfortunate situations, my unexpressed thoughts and feelings that would have met the temperature of their original situation probably just fine, then exploded at a pitch unrelated to the current situation. I’ve made a mess. I’ve vomited on a otherwise manageable situation all my old unexpressed thoughts or feelings. The person who was the unwitting recipient of this prize feels attacked and overwhelmed, at the least surprised. Whatever I feared before was now my reality.
Here’s the good news…it’s out! (If you relate to this experience.) Now we can deal with the actual situation and feelings about it. It’s out in the open. We are sometimes so afraid we won’t be able to handle the situation, so we don’t, and it doesn’t make it go away…it just grows from neglect. Even more good news. We can go back and clean up most things. You can always return to a conversation and say, “You know when you asked me about that? I know I said this but after more thought I think this.”
If you find yourself not saying what you want or not saying how you really feel, answer these questions:
1. Ask yourself why you didn’t say it? Give your best guess.
2. What did you think would happen if you did say it? How did you think that person was going to react?
3. By not expressing your thought or feeling what did you just create for myself or the other person?
4. Is it worth it for you to return to the conversation to express yourself or is it enough that you understand what happened and you will be more mindful when asked again.
This isn’t easy for a lot of us, but you are worth the time and effort. We each have our own way of speaking up for ourselves. Practice will give you the space to find your voice and how you express it. In the end, the most important person to express your truth to is you.
If this was helpful, please share it.