It is surprising how many successful and otherwise outspoken women have trouble speaking their truth in the situations that matter most. We use our voices all the time, but many of us were never taught how to use our words to communicate clearly and effectively in matters of the heart, or stand up for ourselves in difficult or awkward circumstances.
I’ve been working with women for over 25 years, and I have found that learning how to speak from the heart on issues ranging from the mundane to the critical is one of the most consistent challenges facing the modern woman. This isn’t surprising when you consider that for many of us, the lessons learned in childhood taught us to close down our true, authentic voice. As a result, by the time we are adults we may be unsure of how we actually feel about certain things, let alone how to convey that information clearly to others!
For instance, take a look at the phrases below and see if you were taught any of them growing up:
Girls should be seen but not heard.
Don’t speak unless spoken to.
Being kind means lying/remaining silent if the truth hurts another’s feelings.
Women who “speak their mind” are bossy.
Women should put the needs of others ahead of their own.
Women should put the needs of their partners ahead of their own.
Notice how you feel when you read these proclamations now. Yucky, right? But if any of these ideals were instilled in you as a youth, it’s no wonder that you have some trouble speaking your truth in a clear and authentic way.
To speak from your integrity, you need to identify and root out the old beliefs about communication you learned growing up or otherwise picked up from your culture and made your own.
For example, authentic communication does not include clauses such as “I must be kind so I do not hurt others’ feelings.” Look more deeply at these types of self-monitoring behaviors. Why must you be kind so you do not hurt others’ feelings? When you answer honestly, you will probably find it is because you are uncomfortable standing in the face of someone’s hurt, disappointment, or anger. You are being kind not because it is in alignment with your deepest truth, but as a way to avoid others’ reactions.
The irony is that the more authentic you become in being and expressing who you really are, the more kindness will begin to arise spontaneously within you. By becoming willing to be honest, you are expressing kindness to yourself, and this kindness will then spill over to others. You won’t have to try to be kind to others; you will just be kind because it is your nature.
I’ve also noticed the many women have developed the habit of putting others’ needs ahead of their own, and this further stifles honest communication and healthy relationships with the ones we love the most.
For example, the fastest way to create discomfort and resentment in your life is to say yes when you mean no. If someone asks you to do something and you say yes out of a feeling of obligation, or because you don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings, then you are not speaking your truth in that situation.
Being your true, authentic, Warrior Goddess self means you can say no from a place of love rather than say yes from a place of fear.
Other, more complex, problems can arise when we don’t speak our truth. For instance, when you hold how you really feel inside, you often end up creating resentments against others and yourself. You get mad at yourself for not speaking your mind, or mad at others for not understanding how you really feel (forgetting that you never told them how you feel!).
In organizations and family systems, this typically results in distrust, gossip, and fear, and what is commonly referred to as “drama.” When these resentments toward others build up, we sometimes explode in a venting of emotions and judgment in an unconscious or punishing manner. When this occurs, you are not speaking from a place of love, but rather from your wounds and hurt, often not realizing your part in the situation, which was that you did not communicate how you really felt in the first place. Intimate relationships then become hollow and dissatisfying, and your own trust of self is diminished each time you do not speak what you really mean.
One note of caution: Speaking your truth does not mean you always say everything you are thinking. Warrior Goddess communication requires discernment. We must be careful not to use the practice of speaking our truth as an excuse to be cruel or hurtful.
Simply put, the spirit of learning how to speak your truth means you are willing to delve deeper into your own heart and your own inner guidance, and you are willing to speak this truth even in situations where your listener may be uncomfortable with what you have to say.
To find and maintain this balance, we must evaluate and unweave any old agreements that we have around verbal communication. Remember that your destination is to experience openhearted, fluid communication, and vibrant expression, using your authentic desires as a guide.
When you first start speaking your truth it can feel awkward, wrong, and scary. Instead of feeling liberated, you may initially experience a rash of negative emotions such as fear and guilt. This is due to the resistance of your belief system.
Do not expect to feel great when you first speak up. Give yourself time to talk and clear out the emotions and beliefs that arise. Notice, without judgment: Was I able to keep my heart open? How do I feel about myself now? Did I say exactly what I meant to?
You may need to start taking very little baby steps around speaking your truth. For instance, if someone asks you where you want to eat for lunch, don’t defer to them and say anyplace is fine (unless of course, it is). Ask yourself, do I want to eat Mexican or Italian? You may have to dig to find out what your preferences are if you have stayed silent and let others make decisions for you. Practicing speaking your truth in these little instances prepares you to do so in the larger, more difficult types of conversations.
Find where you are afraid of making boundaries, and experiment. Be bold and practice, practice, practice. Your goal is to be open and honest instead of closing down.
At the same time, remember to be gentle with yourself. Learning to speak your truth is a lifelong relationship. I still work to be authentic in my communication. My two negative habits around communication are to be either a pleaser or a controller, so in communication situations I consciously ask myself: Do I really mean what I am about to say? Is what I am about to say an attempt to force a specific outcome?
I don’t believe we ever “master” the art of learning to communicate effectively. But we do get more skilled at witnessing ourselves and making new choices. Keep exploring what you specifically want to communicate and why.
When you release the old rules and habits that are no longer serving your highest good, you naturally stop trying to be who you think you are supposed to be, which allows you the room to be who you actually are.