Can you recall walking away from a situation wishing you had asserted yourself or made your feelings or needs clear? Have you silenced your voice to keep the peace or make someone you loved happy? When we silence our voices and ignore what we need in relationships, we end up angry and empty. If your inner voice is absent it is hard to know who you really are. You prevent the real you from coming out.
Where did she go?
How does this happen? How would a strong, smart, and successful woman consistently put the needs of others in front of her own? Why would she so quickly sacrifice her happiness to make others happy? Keeping parts of yourself under wraps is a defense mechanism. Fear of how others will respond to the voice inside forces us into silence. At some point we experienced pain or rejection when expressing our needs. We muffle the voice now to avoid that pain. We all have different stories, but your voice may have died because:
- Your parent(s) dismissed your needs
- You were led to believe our thoughts or needs were stupid
- You were made to feel you were “extra” and were told to dim your light
Now, after so many years of experiencing disappointment in your most vulnerable moments, the act of silencing your voice is automatic. You’ve had this rationale so long you don’t even notice your voice is gone. Subconsciously your priority is to cater to others. We begin to believe that’s what it means be a good wife, mother employee etc. Self-sacrifice becomes the norm. Whenever there is fight between what you need and what someone else needs, you give up your needs for theirs. It gets hard to trust your voice and eventually your needs don’t seem valid at all. Putting your voice on the shelf in relationships creates bottled up frustration and unhappiness and maybe the eventual end of those relationships.
Activating your inner voice will be uncomfortable. You must learn to cope when people don’t embrace who you are. You may lose a few friends, but you will gain happiness and confidence when you vocalize and put your needs first. You are responsible for your life, no one else. You don’t have to be selfish, but you must make your needs more important than the needs of others. We must naturally do the things that move us forward and make us happy unless there is a good reason to do otherwise.
There are several levels in the self-sacrificing spectrum. You may have silenced your voice in all areas of your life, while others may find the voice only goes in hiding in certain relationships. Wherever you fall, walking through the following steps will help you activate your voice and begin focusing on your needs.
Heard Her lately?
- Your voice may have been silent for so long, you may not recognize her. You can’t vocalize your needs if you don’t know what they are.
- Spend some time being still, no television, no music etc. Close your eyes and place awareness around your thoughts. It may be uncomfortable at first so start with small increments of time.
- Use prayer or meditation to settle and let your thoughts run freely.
- Keep a journal to capture the feelings and thoughts that flow. It is a way to connect with your inner voice. Use open-ended question prompts to explore what you need the most. What would make happier and more fulfilled? How am I showing up in life? Writing can help you get answers from that place of wisdom.
- Practice. In any relationship consistent communication helps you get know more about the person you are dealing with. Listen to your voice daily and get to know her better.
Armed with a relationship with your inner voice, you can begin to articulate your needs and focus on your happiness.
- Identify the places you normally silence your voice. This might be at work, with your spouse, or maybe with your parents. Be conscious of prioritizing others when things come up. Before responding to requests, take a minute to think about what you want and need in the situation.
- Practice saying no. As simple as it sounds, not honoring a request from those that matter to you requires effort. A friend wants you to drive across town to help her pick out a dress for a wedding. While you would love to spend time with her, you were looking forward to relaxing with a book. You can honor your needs and your relationship by saying, “I’d love to see you and help you pick out the dress, but Saturday doesn’t work for me”. The more you put yourself first the easier it will become.
- You matter, so ask for what you want. Give yourself an opportunity to experience fulfilling healthy relationships by articulating the things you need.
You won’t always get your way when you speak up. As you are responsible for making your life work others are responsible for theirs as well. You won’t always be on the same page in every situation. Be comfortable with those differences. Healthy relationships are about compromise and agreeing to disagree. To grow, we must actively listen to the thoughts of others and be vulnerable enough to share ours.