I was no shrinking violet. I have a strong sense of self belief, yet developed a habit of watching others get what they want without voicing my own needs and desires. No matter what I sacrificed, I told myself I was OK. I wanted others to be happy and to get what they needed – and this was genuine.
But this self sacrifice wasn’t a wise choice.
Some people have a strong desire to be liked and this is enough for them to give up their own wants and needs. For others, a dash of the old ‘martyrdom’ can be thrown into the mix; you give things up for others despite the consequences for yourself.
Whatever the reason for not speaking your mind, it ends up being negative for you. Let me explain some of the negatives I’ve experienced and…
Why I needed to get better at this
It made me feel bad
I felt resentful towards others for always getting what they wanted. I played the victim, unconsciously hoping it would give me attention and appreciation from others. But did it?
No. In reality I had no chance of getting what I wanted because I didn’t voice it. Those around me got what they wanted and were happy with that. Just until they felt my resentment like a kick in the back, turning their pleasure quickly into pain. This was punishment for everyone. I felt rubbish, they felt guilty. It was a lose-lose situation.
It made me weak
Through a lack of speaking my mind, I projected weakness. People around me got to know me as someone incapable of thinking for myself; someone unable to make decisions alone. This spanned family life, relationships with friends, boyfriends and just about everyone I knew.
I didn’t get respect at work
I once helped out my boss, knowing she would take all the credit for my ideas. I could have said what I wanted, which was to be recognised by the team and to lead on the project. Instead, I let her take advantage of me. You can guess this behaviour didn’t lead to any respect or promotion!
I didn’t get respect at home
Lyden gets irritated when I don’t say what I think or want. He is very perceptive with it, and won’t let me get away with it!
I’m getting a lot better at it but my behaviour certainly needs strengthening around my family. They assume me to be the old, weaker version of myself and I’m working to break free of that pattern.
How to break free
In Anthony Robbin’s masterpiece ‘Awaken the Giant Within’, we learn that our beliefs affect our decisions. They alter our perception of everything. They affect the ultimate direction of our lives.
In my book this means looking at unhelpful beliefs is a useful thing to do. Beliefs are rooted in thinking, which can be changed by asking questions. So why not question the unhelpful beliefs which are holding you back? Are you with me?
OK then, here goes…
Why aren’t you speaking your mind?
Do you think it’s selfish? Do you think others needs are more important than your own? Do you think people won’t listen to you? Do you feel unworthy? Do you find it hard to make decisions? Is someone controlling you so much that you don’t dare to say what you think or want? Or did you learn the behaviour from someone else?
It started when I was a child, when I was asked by one of my parents what I’d like to drink. I could choose from Ribena, water, milk, maybe lemonade as a treat. Rather than make up my own mind, I asked what my sister was having and choose the same.
The main reason I started doing this was because I wanted to be like my big sister. But by allowing these little decisions to be ruled by someone else’s preferences, I got good at handing over control to the people around me.
This unfortunate behaviour continued long into my adulthood.
When someone asked me what I’d like to do, I’d say I didn’t mind, even if I had a clear preference. I had adopted a habit of putting other people before myself, even to my own detriment. I learned that behaviour from my Mum. Cheers for that Mum, but I’m letting that one go now. It’s just not helpful.
The trick, as with breaking any habit, is to understand where it came from. If you become aware of why you are doing something unhelpful, you can start work on changing that behaviour.
I can catch myself now. I notice if I’m in danger of saying ‘I don’t mind, you choose’. If I have a preference now, I simply say it. Sometimes I get over excited and say what I want with such force, I surprise myself! I’m learning a new skill and that’s just part of the fun (if we can call it that).
Make the decision
Decide that you know your own mind. I consciously made the choice that I’m able to make decisions without looking to others for reassurance or help. My actions and words have now been re-aligned with a new, more empowering belief. And it feels GREAT!
How life gets better
By speaking my mind, I say more of what I want. And I get more of what I want! I am more open and feel more relaxed that I’m being myself. The feeling of lightness brings relief! It helps me avoid second guessing other people’s thoughts, or standing by and waiting for them to take control.
I feel more powerful and energised by being more ME.
The tough bits
My sister got used to having a weak younger sister – so how will she cope with a strong one instead? There is a risk that she won’t deal with it, or she may even refuse to support me in changing.
It helps to have people around who love and support you when you’re changing your behaviour. If your closest friends and family appear to have a negative reaction to your new confidence, surround yourself with people who will have a positive one.
Family and friends may need time to adjust to the change in you. So cut them a bit of slack and be patient in the meantime.
What would help you become better at speaking your mind? And how will you benefit from it?
I’d love to hear your insights – why not share them in the comments below?