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How to Stop Being a Doormat: Speaking Your Truth With Power

Transform the fear of speaking up into power and share your truth.

Photo by Leon Ell' on Unsplash
Source: Photo by Leon Ell' on Unsplash

You know when you leave an encounter with a friend or a work meeting and you think, “I should have said something?”

If you are like me, you might have trouble speaking your truth sometimes even when you know you strongly disagree with what is being said.

If you are a woman or from a systemically oppressed group you are likely to feel anxious when you have the urge to speak your mind and especially if you are disagreeing with the majority.

Our nervous systems and bodies are meant to stay away from danger and flock toward safety.

When you notice that you disagree with someone, you will automatically feel a rush of fear and discomfort.

This is natural. This is your body’s way of warning you that you are about to do something different.

I reached out to my colleague KC Baker, CEO of WomanSpeak, to get her thoughts on how to empower people to speak their truth. Through WomanSpeak, KC guides hundreds of women to speak and share their stories worldwide on stage and in the media.

KC eloquently spoke specifically to that physiological reaction we have when we are about to speak our truth. She shared that “what's important to remember is that the intensity of the energy inside our body that we may call the ‘fear’ of speaking up is actually the feeling of our power.”

KC explains that this fear is an internal knowing that we have something powerful and essential to share.

Shifting the appraisal of our physiological experience of fear of power is a tool we use in cognitive behavioral therapy often. If we interpret this rush of energy as a sign of strength then the subsequent actions we take are different.

Rather than swallowing our feelings, we speak up and out.

As KC explains, “the secret is to say ‘Yes’ to that feeling of fear and breathe into it when it comes on, rather than run from it. Doing this can help you to access a greater sense of freedom to share your voice.”

Recently, I shared this idea with a client. In the next session, she shared that that past weekend, she stood up to her stepmother and told her how offended she was by some of her comments. My client shared that thinking about speaking her mind as powerful allowed her to be clear and direct with her stepmother.

If you are successful at changing your experience of this fear then how do you start?

I want to start by saying that if this is the first time you are sharing your voice, be patient with yourself. Learning any new behavior is challenging. Give yourself a lot of permission to be imperfect.

Before sharing how you feel KC suggests asking yourself these three “high-quality, internal questions to help you clarify what you want to say.”

  1. "What is the most important thing I need to say at this moment?"
  2. "What needs to be said that isn't currently being said?"
  3. "What is my vision of what is possible here, and what do I need to ask for in order to make that vision possible?"

What I love most about these questions is that they take into account both this present moment and your longer-term goals. Your voice is that impactful. What you say matters in this moment and in the future.

If you can identify what is essential to say and how your words can bring you what you need to make your vision possible, then you have spoken your truth.

Here is an example: The other day, I wanted to tell my partner that I was frustrated with his messy cooking behavior. I went through KC’s questions, and here is what I got:

  1. While I am in charge of cleaning up, I cannot clean up all the mess of cooking.
  2. I feel overwhelmed when I look at the kitchen and see all the food scraps and mess everywhere.
  3. I would love to clean up the dishes, pots, and pans. I would like you to clean up the food scraps as you cook. If that is not possible, I would like to clean up while you are cooking.

While this sounds like a small example, following these three steps really helped me get clear on what I wanted and needed to say.

I shared it and it got a positive response.