Afraid to Speak Up For Yourself

Your phone starts ringing. 

You look down. It’s your friend who talks and talks and talks

You sigh. You are in the middle of work and do not have the bandwidth for their emotional dump. 

Instead of picking up the phone and saying you are unavailable, you let it go to voicemail. 

______________

A friend of yours lives nearby. 

They assume you don’t mind giving them a ride when you go out together. 

But actually, you do mind. 

You just don’t say anything about it because you don’t know how. 

You become more resentful each time you pick up your friend and feel like you can’t leave when you want because you’re their ride home. 

_______________

If either of these situations sounds familiar, this episode is for you. 

I am breaking down why it is hard for us to talk true (as I like to say), where we learn to dishonor how we feel or what we want, the consequences of staying silent, and the steps you can take to be more authentically known by the people in your life.

Prefer the audio? Listen here.

Why Don’t We Tell the Truth About How We Feel?

Why is it difficult for many of us to say what is on our minds? 

Why do we stay silent? 

Part of it is learned behavior from childhood. 

If you learn to put other people’s needs, wants, and desires above your own, it likely feels unnatural to say what you need or want. 

Or, like me, you might have heard, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

I learned this rule in childhood and lived by it. I had to unlearn it in therapy.

The “if you don’t have anything nice to say” belief can lead to hyper-positivity and bypassing negative feelings. If a friend makes a hurtful comment, you might not say anything or laugh it off even though deep down, you are hurt. 

I did this when I was younger. But making a funny ‘comeback’ to an unkind comment did not ease my hurt feelings. I just didn’t say anything about it. 

The other reason we stay silent? Most of us do not do confrontations well because we did not learn how to do it. 

Let’s say you have a coworker who figures out how to make their work your responsibility. 

Rather than confront your coworker, you may simply accept it and begrudgingly do the extra work. 

We often let others take advantage of us because we lack the skill to assert ourselves, and this is an essential skill to learn. 

The Beauty of Asserting Boundaries

A client of mine had a friend who called her out of the blue to talk and talk and talk and emotionally dump on her. 

My client felt like a bad friend for having an issue with this, so she remained silent. 

One day, she said, “I would like her to check in and see if it is a good time for me to talk. It’s like she expects me to be there for her at all hours!” 

When we stay silent, we tend to get into judgment and make potentially untrue assumptions. My client couldn’t know if her friend actually expected her to always be there because she hadn’t said anything. 

To change this dynamic, we came up with a boundary script: 

Hey, I know you are here for me and I am here for you, but I would like to make a simple request that you check in with me before you go into a story or something heavy. I am often in the middle of something else when you call, but I do not want to interrupt you. I would appreciate it if you check in with me the next time you want to talk to see if I have the bandwidth for it.”

Guess what happened when she set this boundary with her friend? 

Her friend apologized and understood completely. 

My client accepted the apology, but if she hadn’t set a boundary, I believe she would have ended the friendship. All because she was too afraid to talk true.

Now, every time her friend says, “Hey, is now a good time to talk?” she feels taken into consideration. 

All it took was one bit of communication. 

_______________

A friend of mine lent her truck to her next-door neighbor (whose car broke down) because she needed to drive her child to school twice a day. 

My friend didn’t use her truck often and simply left the keys inside (they live in the middle of nowhere). 

After two weeks, her neighbor (also a friend) hadn’t offered to put gas in the truck. 

My friend grew resentful and said, “I feel taken advantage of. How rude can she be?”

I said, “I understand, but…did you say anything to her?” 

My friend responded, “No. I feel like I shouldn’t have to say anything.” 

This excuse falls into the category of the lies we tell ourselves to avoid doing what we need to do.

I told her, “Your neighbor is a single mom. She could be overwhelmed. Let’s not write a story about what her not filling your truck with gas means. Just make a simple request for her to do it next time.” 

My friend agreed, and the next time her neighbor texted her to say she needed the truck, she texted back with, “Okay – heads up, it needs gas.” 

Guess what her neighbor said? 

“Great, no problem. Happy to fill it.” 

Sure enough, she filled the tank, and there was no problem. 

Where Did We Learn to Fear Talking True? 

We might spend days, months, or years ruminating over feeling used and unappreciated when a simple boundary conversation could resolve things. 

My friend’s text to her neighbor had six words in it. My client? One paragraph. 

Often, we build these conversations up in our minds: if I say something, they’ll get mad. This whole thing will ensue, and I don’t want to deal with it. 

A lot of this has to do with what we witnessed in childhood. What did you see in your family of origin? 

I learned it was rude to be too honest. Again, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” 

I witnessed people not talking true. And trust me, they acted out left and right because we do not have the power to avoid our feelings forever. Sooner or later, as I like to say, the emotional chickens will come home to roost. 

Stuffing our feelings down often results in displaced aggression. This looks like fighting with an inanimate object or screaming at a taxi driver because we are actually pissed off at our boss, but we are too afraid to say anything to them.

If it is too threatening for you to tell the truth in most of your relationships, it is a good idea to understand your downloaded blueprint around this. Inside the guide, you’ll find questions to help you discover where you learned this behavior and how it is familiar to you. 

Greater awareness is how we shift from non-truth-tellers to truth-tellers. 

What Are Healthy Boundaries and Why Do They Matter? 

Let’s explore the role healthy boundaries play in learning to talk true. 

First, let’s establish what it means to have healthy boundaries

It means knowing your preferences, desires, limits, and dealbreakers, and having the ability to communicate them with transparency. 

Learning to be fluent in the language of boundaries is learning to talk true and honor how you feel. 

When we don’t, we often have anticipatory resentment. 

My friend with the truck felt more resentful as each day passed. She thought her neighbor was intentionally being a jerk. And they have a friendship – it’s not like my friend didn’t know her neighbor. 

All of this ruminating took away my friend’s present-moment awareness. 

Rather than generously assuming filling up the gas tank didn’t cross her neighbor’s mind, she thought, Who does this to someone? I never would!

By the way, I am not saying to be generous with everyone. Repeat boundary offenders are a different story, which I covered in this blog.

But we often talk ourselves out of having boundary conversations and asserting the truth about how we feel under the guise of, “If they were a decent person, they would just know. I shouldn’t have to tell them.” 

This is an excuse to avoid having a difficult conversation. 

When you stay silent, you put the burden on the other person to “know better.” But…

We are responsible for our resentments. 

We are responsible for our grudges. 

Why? Because they happen in the vacuum of our minds. 

When we hold a grudge against someone, a lot of times they aren’t even aware of it. 

It is not doing anything to their quality of life, but it sure as hell is negatively impacting the quality of yours

For help with changing this dynamic, download the guide to understand your blueprint around talking true and what is holding you back.

Where Are You Not Telling the Truth In Your Life?

What happens to the people in relationships with non-truth-tellers? 

When they discover the truth, they feel embarrassed. 

I had a client who ate at a Mexican restaurant on her first date with her husband. They went back to this restaurant for each of their 15 anniversaries. 

There was one problem: she didn’t like Mexican food. 

And she never told her husband. 

When she brought this up, I suggested she say, “Hey, can we try a new place? I’m tired of Mexican food after 15 years of eating there.”

Sure, it is not fully transparent, but this wouldn’t have been a terrible way to deliver the news. It would have been softer, and she still would have taken care of her preference to eat elsewhere. 

Instead, she told him the whole story, and he was (understandably) miffed: “Wait, you’ve gone to this Mexican restaurant for 15 years with me, even though you don’t like Mexican food?? Why didn’t you just tell me?” 

When I asked her why she told him, she said, “I felt like I waited too long to tell the truth and once I started it just poured out.” 

When you start telling the truth early and often, you won’t find yourself in situations where you weren’t telling the truth for years. And you will spare both you and the other person from feeling bad. 

You Matter

How you feel, what you think, and what you want matters. And it needs to matter to you more than what anyone else wants, thinks, or feels. 

Of course, we can compromise, but you need to know and prioritize your preferences, limits, desires, and dealbreakers. 

Your ability to tell the truth about how you feel and who you are will positively impact every relationship in your life. 

The people you want to be known by will know you more intimately, even if you only share your preferences in a way you have not before. Talking true is how we build deeper relationships.

To start on this journey, download the guide and answer the questions within to build more awareness around why you might avoid talking true. 

I would love to know what you think about this. How good are you at talking true? Tag me on Instagram (@terricole) or comment below. And if you love reading these posts, share them with others in your life who might benefit. ♥️

I hope you have the most amazing week learning to talk true and as always, take care of you.

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    1. Hi Indi- Perhaps talk about it with them. You can also try to understand the underlying fear of rejection because it really might be more about an original injury that needs your attention. Ask yourself the 3 Qs and see what comes up: When you are afraid to be rejected, who does the person remind you of? Where have you felt like this before? How is the dynamic familiar to you? I hope that helps, xo

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