Like so many women, I have spent much of my life listening to other people, putting other people first and trying to please everyone. It seems to me that one of the great joys of this second half of my life is a stepping away from trying to fit in and do and be who I 'should' be and moving more and more towards who I am.
One of my commitments to myself this year has to increasingly show up in the world as me, nakedly me, me just the way that I am and to let go of attachment to how people see me and react to me. The work of Brene Brown has been a huge influence, encouraging me to be vulnerable and curious about who I am and what is going on for me.
With the help of yoga, coaching, meditation and sweatlodges I am feeling quieter and stronger inside and more aware of what matters to me; what my values are.
The more I can tune into what feels important and right for me, the more I am facing situations where I want to speak my truth, to say what I want and what I don't want, to articulate who I am and what matters to me; and frankly it's been nerve wracking.
In the last 7 days I have been faced with conversations where what I wanted to say and ask for what at odds with what I knew the other people concerned wanted of me; one situation was domestic and one was to do with work.
The work conversation came first. I was clear on what I wanted and what I didn't want but noticed that before the meeting I was imagining that the other person would feel let down, would withdraw from their relationship with me and would be angry. I was scared of being disapproved of and of hurting the other person in some way. I felt sick and shaky and could feel my heart rate rise when I thought of the conversation.
So I got curious and I realized that these were the same thoughts and feelings that I had experienced in a live coaching session in front of 125 people. The thoughts, feelings and sensations I was having about the work meeting were the same I had in the coaching session which helped me to understand that they were not to do with the other person, but to do with me and my previous experience of being authentically me.
Even the best parents and schools play a part in shutting us down and silencing our authentic self. We need to follow the rules, to fit in and to obey to survive and get through. It isn't even that I think this process is wrong; I think it is how we learn to live with other people in a family and a society, but the time comes when we can live in society and in a family and be authentic.
Just noticing that the feelings and thoughts were mine and not to do with the other person meant that the fear about speaking my truth changed to curiosity about what would emerge and even a bit of excitement; because when we speak our truth we create space for something new to emerge.
So we met, we talked, I said what I had to say and she listened. I felt emotional as I spoke from my heart. Our relationship was not broken and my respect for her increased as I saw her ability to hear what I had to say without being defensive. At the moment, I don't know what the material outcome of the conversation will be, but that's OK because I spoke up for myself and what happens next is out of my control.
As I came away from that first meeting I felt relieved but also proud of myself; I had done it, I had spoken up for myself.
Which meant that when the domestic situation arose and I noticed the same feelings of fear of rejection, anger and disapproval arose, I knew that they were just feelings and were not necessarily true which meant that much more quickly I was able to shift to curiosity about what would happen.
The second meeting was equally as emotional as the first and was more of a two way exploration of needs. We both listened and worked hard to see each others point of view. We empathized, we listened and each of us took turns in stating what we needed and didn't want. We parted having reached a new agreement, both feeling better and more connected to each other.
The benefits of speaking your truth
So what I have learned from these 2 meetings is that speaking my truth has unforeseen affects:
- The relationship with the other person was strengthened, rather than weakened by the conversations as we understood each other more deeply.
- Every time I spoke my truth I felt lighter, stronger and less afraid and more curious about what new would emerge.
- The more often I speak my truth the more able I am to recognize when I need to do so and the more confident I feel about having the conversation
- Speaking my truth allows for new ideas and ways of living and working to be born.
Preparing to speak your truth
This is what I notice that I need to do to help me speak my truth:
- I get really quiet, through yoga, meditation, journalling, walking and swimming and I listen to what I want and need from the situation, what I feel about it. I tune into my body and notice how it reacts as I think about the situation.
- I talk to other people about the situation in order to clarify what I want and to see things from different perspectives so that I have the mental agility to be flexible in the conversation.
- This is the stage where I leave any judgement, blame, anger, resentment or desire that the other person be different or that they 'should' or 'ought to' do or be something I want them to do or be. Speaking my truth is to do with me, it is NOT my chance to tear at the other person because when I get clear about my truth, it isn't anything to do with the other person, it is my inner truth.
- I get clear on what is in my control and what is not in my control. So in both of these meetings I knew what I wanted but I also knew that the other person had complete control over what they wanted to give and I was ready to surrender to that and to let go of the need to control what the other person would say or do.
- I take a realistic look at the worst case scenario; what's the worst that could happen by speaking my truth? I make my peace with the worse case scenario before the conversation which allows me to enter into the conversation with less fear and attachment to the outcome.
- I also spend time imagining all the good that could come out of the situation so that I know that new and creative ways forward are possible.
- I write down what I want to say. For the work meeting I wrote notes and then condensed them and for the domestic meeting I wrote a letter. For me writing is a way of clarifying and capturing my thoughts but also making them concrete makes me feel more confident in saying directly what I want to say.
- Just before the meeting I ground myself in my body but standing still, or walking and noticing my feet on the floor, my breathe rising and falling, the birds singing, the wind on my face.
- I reassure my frightened inner child who wants to keep everyone happy that it will be OK. That we will be OK and so will the other person.
- I tune into my curiosity and excitement about what will emerge.
I still feel like a novice when it comes to speaking my truth but every time I have done it I feel proud of myself, I feel clearer about who I am and what matters and I feel a little more empowered.