Speaking Up: from the Inside OutJan 31, 2018
Imagine speaking to yourself as you would to someone you love deeply.
— Oriah ‘Mountain Dreamer’ House
It’s taken most of my life to even consider this delightful possibility. When I did eventually summon the courage to anticipate the kindness of this suggestion, and listened to the voices with which I used to speak to myself, I was horrified:
“You don’t deserve this.”
“You think you can do that?”
“What makes you think they will like you?”
Even worse was the acceptance of other people voicing the same opinions to me.
So, when I wanted to speak up about things that mattered to me, no words would come, whether written or spoken.
How did I change this destructive situation?
First was to consider Oriah’s kind advice. What would happen if I spoke to myself as if I actually liked myself? And could I actually love myself? After I added the phrase “Well done” to the repertoire of voices in my head, and remembered to listen to this kind voice, I was astounded at the difference this made. Such as when I did my very best to help our daughter with the choices she had to make for her university study options, enjoying her delight in aiming high and achieving beyond her expectations, and telling myself “Well done” while telling her the same. We both glowed.
After this small first step, I discovered a pattern in how I spoke to myself, how I spoke to others and how I accepted others speaking to me. If I dared to speak about things that mattered to me, and other people spoke unkindly in return, my “unkind” voices threatened to return in my responses. I taught myself to simply tell them to go away. I told myself that speaking up from my kind place mattered, and I listened to my “kind” voice when it told me “Well done.” Further, I learned to respond to other’s unkind responses as if they were kind. Usually the speakers would shift to being kind. If not, I allowed us to differ, gently but firmly maintaining my right to speak on my own terms and allowed the speaker to do the same. I trained my body and my mind to always, always respond like this.
Now, there is a clear relationship between how I choose to speak to myself, how I choose to speak to others and how I accept others speaking to me. If I maintain my right to speak to myself and to others kindly, generally this generates positive outcomes. On a bad day I might consider listening to my unkind voices, but this never lasts for long. My now-ingrained habit of seeking kindness in everyone including myself always comes to the rescue. I’ve learned that the world's response to me speaking up starts with how I speak to myself! I’ve learned to speak to myself as I would to someone I love deeply. I’ve added phrases such as:
“What I say matters.”
In all my many years of interacting with people, I’ve seen this pattern over and over again. One of the people I admire is a now-single mother. When her now-ex husband beat her once again, this time in public, only stopping when bystanders hauled him away from her, she reached the end of one part of her life when she believed the unkind voice with which he spoke to her. Once she came home from hospital, physically recovered from her terrible wounds where possible, she started a new journey to recover from the wounds to her soul. For the sake of her children she started to speak kindly to herself. She deserved to live! With her ex-husband in prison she was safe for a time to regain her physical strength while learning to speak up for what was important to her. I was blessed to walk alongside her during this time, with the deepest admiration for the journey she took to strength; not only physical strength but also strength in her character and in her soul. This gave her precious children a new role model to grow into at this tough time in their young loves.
At this moment in our human story, as the #MeToo movement gains momentum, I wonder if it is especially challenging for women to speak up. The brave women who’ve done so in the #MeToo forum have not always been applauded, that’s for sure. But those who have grown strong in their voices have been powerful role models for all of us, men and women!
If you are having trouble speaking up for what matters to you, you might like to listen to the words that you are speaking to yourself. This is where all the words that everyone speaks to you, including you, originate. Are you speaking to yourself as you would to someone you love deeply? If not, what loving words could you say to yourself, like the single mother I’ve spoken about? When you achieve this, you will be astounded how much easier it will be to speak up!
This blog was first published in the 100 Women blog here.
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