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 instead kept quiet?
I know I have made these mistakes on more occasions than I’d like to admit.
In her book, You Can Heal Your Life, Louise Hay puts forward the argument that some physical problems associated with speech and the throat are in fact related to the inability to speak up for one’s self. Hay explains how the inability to speak up can result in a “swallowed anger”, reflecting a constant suppression of a person’s voice. This can in turn result in a “stifled creativity” due to people constantly doing things for others, but never for themselves.
According to Hay, once the inability to speak up becomes an ingrained habit, it can show up as physical illnesses of the throat region, including sore throats, strep, tonsillitis, laryngitis, and eventually thyroid problems.
If you have ever felt this way, or know others who struggle to represent themselves fairly in conflict or public situations, this will probably make immediate sense to you.
There are many underlying reasons why people don’t speak up for themselves. They might be afraid of conflict; fear disapproval or rejection; feel the situation will not improve no matter what they do; feel “selfish” for asserting their needs over those of others; or, they might assume that others should already know how they feel or what they want.
If the inability to speak up for yourself is something which is holding you back, causing you health problems and anxiety, and stifling your unique voice, the good news is that there are ways of overcoming your inhibitions.
The following 10 steps can help you learn to speak up for yourself, and assert your needs and opinions. You might like to try just a few first, finding your voice over time.
Step 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 the way they express their voice? What about their approach appeals to you? What would you change? What is the outcome of them speaking up?
Step 2. Keep a Journal
Begin to share your voice by putting it in writing to yourself. You can express yourself honestly, without censoring yourself, or feeling censored by others. 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.
Step 3. Meditate
In the solitude and silence of meditation, the noise of life can be removed and you can listen to who you really are. Without these moments, your true self easily gets influenced by external pressures and opinions, and it is hard to know what your real views are.
If you are familiar with the Chakras and the connection between the Throat Chakra and communication, visualizing the color blue can have healing effects which improve your communication.
Step 4. Use Empowering Affirmations
Making affirmations, or affirmative statements, can be a powerful way to remind yourself of your goals and principles. Construct voice-related affirmations for yourself, such as, “I am speaking up for myself”, “I express myself freely and confidently”, “I speak up for myself with ease”, “I express my creativity”, or “It is okay to make noise!”
If you don’t believe these affirmations at first, start out by expressing a movement towards your objectives, making affirming statements such as, “I am getting better at speaking up for myself”, or “I am taking steps to express my creativity”. Say the affirmations daily, and write them on pieces of paper placed somewhere accessible to bring them to your attention throughout the day.
Step 5. Start Safe and Small
If you struggle to speak up for yourself, start small by voicing your opinion on small matters to close friends. Let them know your restaurant preferences, movie choices, favorite clothing stores, or hobbies. Voicing your opinion on small things will help you learn to speak your mind when bigger issues arise.
Step 6. Challenge Your Inner Critic
Being too swift to judge, or being judgmental, is one of the biggest reasons why hold back our opinions, particularly because many of those judgments are direct at ourselves!
The first step to overcoming this challenge is to let go of self-judgment; to turn off the voice that criticizes. Notice the messages you tell yourself when you are about to speak up, or wish you could speak up. It is likely that these messages involve a lot of unfair self-criticism.
In time, these refutations or self-refuting messages can be questioned, reframed, and replaced with fairer, more productive affirmations such as those suggested above.
Step 7. Start a Weekly “Speak Up” 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 which you had 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. Or, at the grocery store, you might say good morning to a complete stranger. Each step builds confidence, and a habit of natural self expression.
Step 8. Make a Difference
One of the gifts which comes with finding your voice is that you can make a difference to others in the world. Find ways to use your voice to change lives, be it through pleasant conversation, teaching others, empathizing, or implementing a positive change in the way things are done at work or home. Considered from this perspective, finding your voice can become a vital part of living a passionate and meaningful life!
Step 9. Join a Public Speaking Organization
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 an internationally-recognized organization which holds meetings that anyone can attend in their local area. Providing attendees the opportunity develop and refine presentation skills, and to practice thinking on their feet, Toastmasters might seem scary at first, but with practice you’ll see weekly growth in confidence.
Step 10. Hire a Life Coach
If you feel really stuck and notice that you have lifelong patterns of not speaking up, some guidance from a Life Coach can help. Among other affirming practices, a life coach can help you become aware of the beliefs stored in your subconscious that keep you from expressing yourself. By becoming aware of these beliefs, and reframing them in an affirming manner, the fears and inhibitions of the past can be overcome more readily.
Unlocking the Power of Voice
Gradually find your voice by taking one or two of the actions above over a two-week period. Then, once you are feeling comfortable with those actions, add another one or two further actions, dialing up your program over time.
If you keep doing this until all 10 actions are part of your daily life, you’ll begin to see the benefits of speaking up for yourself. Those benefits can include some very powerful outcomes, such as your own needs being met more often; your views becoming better-known and better-understood; improvements in your management of social situations; improved relationships with others; reduced self-judgement; and more.