Why is it so hard to speak up in our lives?
At meetings. In groups. In relationships. In our places of workship. Or our communities.
To speak out about injustices.
To say how we really feel.
To raise problems, or share our ideas.
Or, heaven forbid, to promote ourselves/our work – or tell others about our spiritual beliefs or experiences?
Some of us fear this one-on-one, or in small groups. Some fear larger audiences. And on some subjects, we can’t even do it with our closest friends.
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Now let’s make this personal...
What do we think others will say/do – or what do we think or say to ourselves – that holds us back?
It’s one thing to ask this of others. But if I’m going to do that, I also need to ask it of myself. So let me be as honest as I can...
In the times/places I hold myself back, here are some of my fears:
- condemnation, ridicule
- embarrassment, humiliation
- being laughed at, ignored or put down
- being wrong and/or judged
- standing out, being too loud
- taking centre stage, or being seen as egotistical
- having my identity, self respect or value crushed... (or so it seems), and
- the fear of loss – of work... respect... friends/lovers... even life.
One of Our Greatest Fears
It’s said that public speaking is the greatest fear in the Western world, ahead of even death and taxes. So clearly I’m not the only one. And when it comes to the fears in our society of shyness, intimacy and vulnerability – it’s no wonder people end relationships via text messages, or hold back sharing feelings/truths with their partners, let alone speak up about more challenging issues (e.g. religion or homosexuality).
So where do these fears come from? Certainly from past experiences we’ve had, with parents, family, school and work. Then there are the stories we tell ourselves, long afterwards. But something goes even beyond these. At one time, whenever I’d think about talking publicly about spirituality, I experienced images of burnings and beatings so severe that I could barely see straight. So some of these fears can run very deep within us.
Not speaking up is a defense, a way of protecting ourselves from what we fear the most. Yet therein lies the split within us:
On the one hand, of not wanting to relive the pain, face the fear or listen to the challenging thoughts within and around us. So we ‘never have to go through that again.’
And on the other, our need to express. Because expression is life.
To sing, to dance, to speak. To share our ideas, feelings, truths.
To bring new ideas into the world.
To share our songs, our poetry, our art... our creativity, and inventions
To disagree with others, or challenge authority
Or simply to assert ourselves, and give voice to what lies deep inside... even if others don’t agree.
And it’s not just us – it’s everyone. At some level, we all fear true, deep, honest expression.
So What can we do... and What will we do??
There are many things we can help do to help ourselves:
1) Safety (finding a safe person/space to speak up)
2) Giving ourselves permission
3) Encouragement and support (for others, and ourselves)
4) Practice, and positive experiences
5) Not making it so serious, or taking it so personally
6) Facing our memories, our shadows or demons
7) Forgiving/healing with our past, those who’ve ‘done us wrong’, and ourselves
8) Seeing our own beliefs, and the stories we’ve told ourselves
9) Asking for help from others
10) Spiritual help, God, Higher Power
These can all help us to grow confidence, and give us the joy of being more fully ourselves.
We can do any or all of these things, and many others. But the real question is, will we? Will we do this for ourselves, and for each other (since our speaking up helps others too.) Will we risk standing alone or being different? Feel the weight of “No” around us, but say “Yes’ inside?
We think that speaking up is about other people, and what they will say or do. But is it ultimately about loving ourselves enough, to accept that urge within... to live? To be? And to ultimately trust, that others, and we, will "survive"?
At its very roots, perhaps expressing ourselves is akin to the daily struggle between life and death. Will we... or won’t we? Will we give ourselves permission to live – or choose to suffer a slow form of death, by holding ourselves inside?
When the desire to live becomes greater than our fear of death...
When our urge to “be” ourselves becomes greater than the loss of the ‘self’ we’ve come to know...
When our desire to feel better becomes greater than the pain of staying inside...
What will it take to take for you to take one more step today?
And what will it take for me?
- Eric Hellman
Share your thoughts, by clicking on "Reply"...
Or come to our June 13th Breakfast conversation to talk about it. (Read more here).