What does it mean to “speak your truth?” How do you practice speaking authentically?
This is a prompt one of the mentors in my Happy Healthy Habits program recently came up with for the rest of us to reflect on.
It’s something I’ve actually been pondering recently. I’ve been working on finding a balance between speaking about my beliefs and opinions while also leaving room for open-mindedness and not having so much conviction that I can’t change my mind.
To me, speaking my truth is not about blabbing about every opinion I have. It’s not about picking fights or winning or being right. It’s not even about changing the mind of the other person.
But it’s also not about bending over backwards to make sure everyone is happy all the time (because that totally doesn’t work). It’s more about learning where and when my belief about something would be useful for a situation. It’s about being able to stand in what I know and present it with grace, dignity, and compassion.
Of course, that’s all easier said than done.
So while reflecting on this, I found that throughout my life, I’ve had a pattern of either sticking with my opinion so much that I become defensive and obtrusive, OR skirting around topics I didn’t feel quite right about, but where I didn’t want to step on any toes.
Whereas earlier in my life, I may have acted out the former more commonly, I found that recently, I’ve been acting out the latter. But then I realized that it doesn’t have to be either/or. Of course, I’ve known that logically for some time, but I only very recently started to actually embody this as truth.
For me, part of not speaking up is truly not wanting to offend people. But if I dig deeper, I find that much of it is the fear that I’ll say something that is “wrong” or “bad,” and that people will judge me for it. And I do think it’s important to be cognizant of the language we choose, and to keep the feelings and perspectives of others in mind as we speak. But I also realized that I was subtly perpetuating a pattern that was fear-based instead of love-based. It wasn’t that I was transcending conflict/arguments and being so compassionate toward the other person that I didn’t want to contradict them: it was that I was too scared to say what I sensed in my heart was true.
This pattern of playing small based on fear is the opposite of “Braving the Wilderness,” as Brené Brown calls it.
So now, I’m fully bringing into my awareness that I can always change my mind about something. I am also trying to remember that if someone disagrees with me, neither of us are “wrong” or “bad.” Instead, disagreeing can actually open up a thoughtful, productive conversation about the nuance of a topic/belief.
I realized that the fear of speaking out stemmed from my ego’s need to be perfect (Hello again perfectionism! I thought I got rid of you!) in order to protect myself. But how many thoughtful conversations have I missed because I wasn’t willing to speak my beliefs? And how many times is what I have to say exactly what someone else needs to hear?
So this ego strategy of simply not saying anything doesn’t serve me or the people around me.
I can gently set aside my ego and speak my deeply held beliefs with a mind that is open and willing to discuss further. I will stand in my authenticity and welcome criticism as an opportunity for vulnerability, compassion, and an opening for hearing another point of view.
I don’t have to get defensive if someone disagrees, and I don’t have to beat myself up for being wrong either. This is a false dichotomy: more than just those two options exist! Instead, my stance will be open and heartfelt. When I feel myself and my body contract (trigger), it will be my cue to soften and lean in (habit), and therefore feel a sense of integrity with my authentic self as well as with my value of being open-hearted (reward). (By the way, that’s a behavior change strategy: identify the Trigger, Habit, and Reward for changing a behavior and you’re way more likely to do it!)
So I’m curious: How will you stay open, heartfelt, and true to your beliefs? What are your thoughts on “speaking your truth?” Let’s open up a dialogue and talk about it! After all, connection is my intention behind this new goal. I look forward to hearing your own authentic response.