Building the Courage to Speak Up

“I don’t want to go to work today if Jamie is going to be there. What if he yells at me again in front of everyone, or takes me into his office and puts me down?”

Have you ever had that sort of experience?

I have, many times. For years I would do whatever anyone would say, especially my boss, even if it didn’t feel right.

Until one day I had the courage to speak up for myself.

I was so sick of being yelled at and seeing my colleagues treated with no respect, that I felt I needed to put a stop to this. I took a few deep breaths, wiped away my tears and approached my boss just after he raised his voice at me.

I said (with an open heart) “Jamie, you do not speak to me like that. If you have a problem with me I would appreciate you speaking to me about it. I am a human being and deserve to be spoken to with respect.”

His response was profound and it totally changed our relationship.

He began to speak to me and my colleagues with enthusiasm and encouragement. Maybe he didn’t realise what he had been doing and just needed a reminder.

Why is it that we often feel we cannot speak up, voice our opinion and say no when something doesn’t feel right?

So often, we hold ourselves back due to fear.

Fear of what others will think of us, fear of making the wrong choice, fear of saying the wrong thing, fear of hurting someone else. The truth is when we live in constant fear, NOONE wins.

Learning to live with a more positive and loving attitude takes courage, takes vulnerability and a lot of practice. AND when we begin to make this shift from fear to love, we allow our relationships to be more healthy and powerful.

Please remember this: you can never make anyone else feel anything – because his or her feelings are theirs.

Worrying about how someone will react to what you say is also living in fear. Trust yourself, know that your intention behind speaking up is not to hurt the other person; it is to offer your opinion, and allow them to respond.

The reality is that no one is ever right or wrong so there is no need to fear what others think of you. If they want to start an argument with you, you are simply sharing YOUR TRUTH and they are sharing theirs. If we continue to hold back it creates toxicity within us and in all of our relationships.

When our life is filled with toxins it looks a little like this: we consciously choose to create drama, we do not look after ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally, we love to blame the other person, we fall victim in every situation and quite often feel anxious and overwhelmed. I manifested a very toxic life for years, until one day I woke up and decided to take my power back. I chose to live a toxic free life which meant ending some relationships, looking after my health better (in all areas) working in a job I enjoyed, and learning more and more about myself.

Remember that everyone you meet is on their own journey. So this article is not about blaming our boss or judging them. We need to be compassionate towards all human beings including ourselves.

Relationships are simply teaching us lessons to learn more about ourselves.

When I faced my fear around confrontation and spoke up to my boss (even though my heart was pounding out my chest and I felt very nervous) it was one of the biggest life lessons I have ever learnt.

And I am forever grateful to him for helping me learn how to trust myself and speak up when I feel I need to. I hope this has inspired you to do the same.

Steps to help you speak up:

  1. Make a commitment to yourself

You need to firstly make the conscious commitment to loving yourself. Love yourself enough to say no. If someone was mistreating your best friend would you speak up about it? YES because you love and respect your friend. Make that friend YOU and begin to stand in your own power. Being a people pleaser will only ever take you so far.

2. Feel your feelings

When you notice yourself getting angry, process your feelings before you speak up. As children we were not taught to feel our feelings, if we cried we may have been told to “Be quiet. You have nothing to cry about.” And instantly shamed for being vulnerable.

Feeling your feelings is a big part of learning how to create a more abundant and happy life for yourself. Things that may help you are knowing this: Your feelings will not kill you. They do not define you. They only last for 90 seconds and, just like the weather, our emotions are constantly changing so you are never stuck in one emotion.

GOOD or BAD is not a feeling, it is a judgment of a feeling.

Our primary feelings are MAD, GLAD, SAD, SCARED. So every morning and throughout the day check in with how you are feeling. It’s so easy for us to express our comfortable feelings like happiness and excitement, do you agree? But in today’s society we find it hard to express our uncomfortable feelings (again this is because we have not been taught how to feel them properly).

I believe if everyone took full responsibility for their own feelings it would minimise arguments in relationships. So if you are feeling uncomfortable at all, for example angry, sad, and anxious, there are healthy ways to express this. Cry, scream into a pillow, go for a walk (move your body), journal, breathe deeply, mediate, speak to someone.

3. Calm yourself, process what’s really going on, THEN talk

Speaking when you are feeling angry will not ever resolve anything, so take the time to calm yourself, process what’s really going on and THEN have the conversation.

Take some time to sit with yourself, take a few deep breaths and get a pen to paper. Tell yourself the truth about how you feel, don’t keep your opinions locked in your head anymore. Start to express yourself, even if it is only in your journal or to loved ones.

When we practice this enough, we begin to get master it and it will become easier to speak up to everyone in your life.

4. Become aware of the inner YOU

Start by giving yourself 30 minutes of “me time” every day. This could be on your commute to or from work, or wake up half an hour earlier. This is time that you can be present with you and understand yourself more. Be aware of your inner voice – are your thoughts towards yourself negative or positive? Use a journal to bring awareness into your life.

Once you have awareness about your behaviours THEN you can begin to change them.

When you are happy and love yourself from within, it has a ripple effect on everyone around you. Get the inside right and everything else will fall into place.

Understand that happiness comes from within; begin to be aware of YOU, your actions, your thoughts, your feelings, your energy, your input into the world. If you are still seeking validation or approval from others, it just means that you are still trying to find happiness outside of you.

Learning to love yourself, and to speak up, are not easy but are so worth it.