10 Steps to Speaking up for Yourself

Have you ever said “yes” when you really wanted to say “no”? Have you ever compliantly accepted a “no” from somebody when everything inside you screamed, “Speak up and get a yes?”  How about the times you’ve wanted to shout, “This is what I want,” but stifled it and kept quiet?  I know I have made this mistake on more occasions than I’d like to admit.

In Louise Hay’s, “You Can Heal Your Life”, some of the probable emotional causes of throat problems is the ‘inability to speak up for one’s self, which in turn can become ‘stifled creativity’ because we are always doing for others but never for ourself, or ‘swallowed anger’ because we never get to do what we want to do.  If the lack of speaking up for yourself becomes an ingrained habit, it can show up as health problems such as sore throats, strep, tonsillitis, laryngitis, and eventually thyroid problems.

There are many underlying reasons why you might not speak up for yourself:  you are afraid of conflict, you are afraid of disapproval or rejection, you are convinced the situation will not improve no matter what you do, you feel it is ‘selfish’ to put your needs before others, or you believe others should know how you feel and know what you want.  Whatever the reason, here are 10 steps to speaking up for yourself and getting your needs met.

  1. Notice Others. Do you know of someone in your life who speaks up for themselves?  Spend some time noticing others, even strangers, in your everyday life, who are speaking up.  Do you like their approach?  What about their approach appeals to you?  What would you change?  What is the outcome of them speaking up? 
  2. Write in a Journal. Begin to share your voice by putting it in writing to yourself.  You can express yourself honestly and without censor.  Reflect on your thoughts about life, work, politics, social issues or just opinions that you might not yet have the courage to voice to others.
  3. Make time to Meditate. In the solitude and silence of meditation, you remove the noise in your life and listen to who you really are.  Without these moments, your true self easily gets influenced by external opinions and it is hard to know what is really true for you.  If you are familiar with the Chakras and how the Throat Chakra is connected to communication, visualizing the color BLUE can have healing effects on your communications.
  4. Use Empowering Affirmations. Affirmations can be a powerful way to remind yourself of your goal.  Create affirmations such as, “I am speaking up for myself more and more every day”, “I express myself freely and joyously”, “I speak up for myself with ease”, “I express my creativity”, or “It is okay to make noise”!  Say affirmations daily.  You might write the affirmations on pieces of paper and put them in a purse or wallet to remind you throughout the day as well.
  5. Start Safe and Small. If you struggle speaking up for yourself, start small by voicing your opinion amongst close friends with little things.  Let them know your restaurant preferences, your movie choice, your favorite clothing stores, or the hobbies you like to participate in the most.  Voicing your opinion regarding small things will help you learn to speak your mind when more difficult situations arise.
  6. Challenge Your Inner Critic. Judgment is one of the biggest reasons we hold back from expressing ourselves, especially the judgments we make about ourselves!  The first step is letting go of self-judgment – turn off the voice that criticizes!  Do you feel your needs are not as important as the needs of others?  Do you feel you are not good enough to contribute to the conversation?   Notice the messages you tell yourself when you are about to speak up or wish you could speak up.  It is likely that these critical messages are not true and a reframe can take energy away from these messages.
  7. Get Precise. If you are nervous about speaking up for yourself, you can sometimes talk for the sake of taking, just to fill in space. Learn to take a deep breath, simplify what you have to say, and say what you really mean.  Decide to let go of the fluff, the excuses, the justifications, and say what really matters.  Then, practice saying them out loud to hear how it sounds.
  8. Start a ‘Speak Up Weekly Plan’. Each week, commit to speaking up in a small way to express who you are:  at work, you might choose to speak up at a meeting where you would normally remain quiet; in a relationship, you might choose to mention something that you don’t like that you previously kept to yourself; over coffee with a friend, you might voice your opinion about an issue going on in the world that bothers you,  at the grocery store, you may say good morning to a complete stranger.
  9. Make a Difference. One of the gifts of finding your voice and expressing yourself is that you can make a difference to others in the world.  Find ways to use your voice to changes lives, be it through helping others smile, teaching others, share your knowledge to help someone with chronic disease feel relief, or making a shift in the way things are done in your workplace.  Finding your voice can be a vital part of living a passionate and meaningful life!
  10. Participate in Public Speaking. One of the best ways to increase your confidence in expressing your voice is to take part in a public speaking course to gain skills in self-expression.  Toastmasters is a great course that anyone can attend in their local area and provides the opportunity for presentation skills practice as well as thinking on your feet.    It might be scary at first, but with practice, you’ll see weekly growth in confidence.

 

Make a decision today to choose 1 or 2 of these steps and implement them over the next couple of weeks until they feel comfortable.  Then, choose another 1 or 2 to try for the next couple of weeks.   Continue to do this until all 10 are part of your daily life and you’ll begin to see the benefits of speaking up for yourself.  Not only will you begin to see your needs met, but your health will thank you too!