Climbing the 12 foot angled ladder on wheels, I held on tightly to the hand rails as I balanced myself and reached deep into the stacked stock shelving searching for the right size, the right color. I would go to great heights to find what the customer was looking for at my first real job; working in a retail store in the men’s dress shirt department. I worked all holidays, kept the stock straight when it was quiet, and I rarely called in sick as I took this job seriously. When it came time for my first work review, I was very nervous, worried and wondering how my manager perceived me. When I read the all “average” ratings, my heart sank as I felt I had been giving it my all. At sixteen years old, I found a place deep with me that would not allow me to sign the form without commenting about the “average” rating. I was extremely shy in high school, and speaking up was a big deal. Very nervously I told my manager that I felt I went above and beyond for customers and even co-workers and that I deserved a higher rating is some areas of the evaluation. She paused and then said the magic words; “I know it took courage to speak your truth, and you are right. You do deserve a higher rating.” And so for me, thankfully, that experience burned into my brain as a reason to take a chance on being heard and seen.
Do you find that you often “bite your tongue” and “swallow your words” so you won’t “rock the boat”? If so, you may need a quick lesson in speaking your truth. Speaking your truth is not about lashing out at others or shaming someone on purpose but instead it is about clearly communicating how you feel, which is difficult for many people. Speaking your truth takes courage because you take a risk; you may or may not be heard. You may not be received well by someone else; they may not hear you or like what you have to say. But here’s the truth, it’s not about them, it’s about you being in integrity with your innermost voice, your soul.
The reasons why the inner voice gets quieted or lost are varied, but mostly stems from how we learned to handle conflict or express/not express our feelings as children. In some families, children are told not to cry, be quiet, or stop being angry. Or if there was chaos and conflict in the household, a child may decide to stay quiet because they are afraid of getting hurt. These early experiences mold how we do or don’t express ourselves in the future as adults.
The benefits to speaking up include increased self-esteem, relaxation in the body, and richer relationships. In order to begin this process, you must decide that you want to improve your communication skills. Then begin to notice bodily cues when you have an interaction with someone. You may have a feeling in the pit of your stomach, your jaw may tighten, or you clench your fists. Noticing is the first step. Next, decide to practice speaking your truth with someone safe who you know will not leave or ridicule you. This practice is like exercise; it takes repetition for this muscle to build. It may feel scary at first, expect that feeling to arise. Here is a quick three-step process to get you started:
- When _______ happened or happens
- I felt/feel________________
- I would like you to___________ or not____________
The next time you wish you had said something to someone instead of swallowing your words, go back and use the three-step process. It’s never too late to speak your truth or begin learning to care for yourself, and your precious soul.
Susan is a Licensed Psychotherapist and Soul Coach and sole proprietor of Living From Within, LLC. Through counseling, coaching, creative workshops, book studies, and writing, Susan guides you to hear and live the messages of your soul.