I have often experienced myself as a coward, in the sense of not daring to say something if I see another compromising for example a work-situation or not doing what is best when it comes to taking care of animals. In these moments where I see that I must say something I often feel very uncertain and insecure, and before even saying something (that is, if I DO muster up the courage to say something) I keep mulling over what to say in my mind: “Will they be angry if I say it this way?” “If I use this word, will I soften the blow and prevent a conflict?”
What is also really interesting is that these are most often moments where there initially is no reaction within me. I simply see that what is being allowed, isn’t acceptable because it is not best for all and is compromising, towards the person themselves, others or me. If I on the other hand am already in a reaction of anger or blame or judgment, it is as though the energy of the experience ‘contains’ me and I actually feel strong and ‘empowered’ – as though the experience of anger, blame or judgment protects me from the possible backlash – or I simply do not care how another will react because I am so caught in my experience.
So when I do see another doing something compromising without reacting, it is as though I am more vulnerable, more exposed – and I have found that when I go the route of censoring myself and being very diplomatic and ‘nice’, to prevent conflict, it often results in the other person not really registering or receiving what I am saying or simply don’t respect me – because I am not coming from a starting-point of self-respect (and respect towards the point I am seeing), but am coming from a starting-point of fear and inferiority.
So in sharing this with a couple of people in my reality, I got two pieces of advice that I found supportive:
One advice is that what matters in such moments is not so much the words spoken or the information relayed but in fact the state I am in, which means that what matters more than the words I use, is my body language and voice tonality, how I approach the person internally.
I found this advice supportive, because all this time I have almost solely been focusing on relaying the information in the best way possible – wanting to relay the information in a way where it doesn’t create conflict, while being in fear within myself of said conflict – which then either has the result that the point isn’t being brought across OR that it actually creates conflict because the other person picks up on my fear.
The other advice I got that I found was supportive is that I can only ever be responsible for delivering the information, not for how it is received. What I can do is to deliver the information in the best way possible, but it is then up to the other person how and whether they are going to receive it or not.
This is obviously a truth with modifications because it is not something that should be used as an excuse to lash out on people and then blame them for how they react – however I do find it supportive, specifically because I have been so focused on preventing conflict that I censored myself and didn’t actually share what I saw clearly. As such, avoiding conflict was more important to me than getting the actual point across, in which I actually compromised myself, the situation and the other person by subjecting myself to fear and abiding it.
What I also find interesting is that I have been hiding behind reactions and emotions, using reactions and emotions to stand up for me, to be a sort of shield I have used to protect myself against others – as well as to attempt to manipulate them rather than speaking directly to them, openly and honestly.
In looking at this, a memory came up from when I was around 5 years old. What is interesting is that my mother actually took a picture in the exact moment it happened and so it is a memory that is documented and that thus in a way stand out, because I have grown up seeing it and talking to my mother about it. We were at some summer camp and I was playing with some other children. An important detail of the story is that I was butt naked (I enjoyed being naked as a child) whereas the other children were clothed. As far as I remember, what happened was that some older children were being unfair/mean to the child I was playing with and I remember having a surge of anger come up within me, that this is unacceptable and I stood up to them and I yelled at the top of my lungs that what they were doing was unacceptable – and they backed off.
It stands as a sort of core memory because there was no fear within me in that moment, no fear of how they would react, no fear of exposing myself.
Another memory is from when I was around 7 years old and some older girls had been teasing me in school. At a school meeting I stood up and declared that they were teasing me and that I wanted them to stop – and they did. I would also stand up for the kids who were being teased and bullied, again without worrying about the potential backlash. I simply saw something that was unacceptable, and I called it out.
I see that it started changing when I became more self-conscious and specifically when I became more aware of the brutality and nastiness that existed amongst kids.
Another dimension is that my mother has always talked about how she tends to be domineering and how others react to her because of that. So I would see her ‘speak up’ (or lash out) and I saw how others reacted to her and how much conflict it created and since then, I have feared being too domineering, that others will perceive me as annoying and that I will have people against me if I speak up.
So somehow, with all of this I have developed a cowardice and fear against speaking up, not wanting to be at odds with people and not wanting them to turn against me and become nasty if I do speak up.
The consequence of this is that I don’t respect myself – which is why others don’t respect me when I try speaking up through fear and self-censorship. Another consequence is that I, when I don’t speak up, start resenting the other person and start ‘showing them’ through subtle movements (like slamming the door, sighing etc.) that what they are doing is not ok – which is a form of manipulation, wanting them to feel bad and then change – a common strategy adults also use on children, which is in no way effective because it doesn’t support the person to take self-responsibility, but coaxes them to act out of fear.
So what was suggested to me, is to rather focus on the state of my body when there is something I want to say to another, and then speak frankly and honestly and let the words flow without censoring or planning them ahead to prevent conflict. This is something I see is supportive and that I will push myself to do, focus on being stable and calm within myself as I approach the other person, to keep my voice and body stable – and to then also not be afraid if what I share does cause conflict in another.
Because what I have also seen is that I have created this belief that if another is angry with me then it automatically means that I have done something wrong; as though their anger directly reflects back to me, when in fact, others can react because the truth hits them, it can be a reaction of self-defense or denial – all of which I have no control over or responsibility for, and as such: my responsibility is to relay the information in a supportive way without reacting and how it is then received/acted upon, is up to the other person. I can only ensure that I don’t react, not that another doesn’t.
Another point that I also see as important here is how we have created a culture where we aren’t allowed to speak up and let someone know if they are doing something that isn’t cool. It has in fact become a taboo – where it is seen as ‘rude’ or ‘not ok’ to let someone else know that what they are doing isn’t ok. So when I do for example push myself to do it, there is often an experience of being ’excusing’, as though I am doing something outside the parameters of ’normal’ social conduct – which is in itself a problem because it means that we’re all holding each other and ourselves back from changing/expanding – when we can’t point out points that require changing/aligning in one another.
I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to fear speaking up when I see another doing/saying something unacceptable/compromising/not best for all because I fear that I will create conflict by saying it, that I will say it wrong or in a reaction and that there will be a backlash of the other person becoming angry with me
I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to accept and allow myself to subject and subjugate myself to fear to such an extent where I am willing to compromise myself and another to avoid conflict
I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to feel and experience myself as weak and inferior because I am in a moment of vulnerability and exposure in having to say to another that I see what they did was compromising, because I am used to hiding behind reactions and using reactions to stand up within/as
I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to define and experience being vulnerable, open and exposed as weakness and inferiority – when it is in fact a point of strength and empowerment, to actually be able to see what is best and what is not
I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to not respect myself, the point I am seeing or another within and as respecting and subjecting myself to fear of conflict, which is in fact a form of self-interest as self-preservation where I would rather maintain a fake good relationship with another than risk creating conflict by standing up for what is best for all
I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to see a point in another that is unacceptable/compromising/not best for all clearly and without reaction and then stifle myself and go into a reaction where I start doubting myself and whether I have a right to say something and whether and how I should say something because of how the other may react, within using the subconscious excuse within me that if they react, their anger is on me, it goes into me and tells me I have done something wrong and so either approach the person in reaction and fear OR NOT speak up and react because I DIDN’T speak up by resenting and blaming the other person – and thus abdicate responsibility for what I saw and for myself within sharing what I see with another and supporting them and myself to expand
I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to immediately stop and freeze within myself in fear, the moment I see another do something unacceptable/compromising/not best for all within thinking: “oh shit, now I have to say something” and immediately start imagining and projecting in my mind how they will react and become angry with me and how I will react to their anger inside myself by feeling hurt and unstable and shaken – and thereby weaken myself in my resolve to communicate with the person, and more often than not, opt to not speak up, using the excuse of self-censorship where I believe that I have to first concoct a ‘speech’ that is ‘bullet proof’ and diplomatic so that the person won’t react – which I know is impossible and thereby I often excuse myself from even speaking up, suppressing the point inside myself and diminishing both myself and the other person.
I forgive myself that I’ve accepted and allowed myself to think and believe that if another gets angry with me after I have shared something with them that I see they did that was unacceptable/compromising/not best for all, it means that I have failed, done something wrong and that I must’ve spoken harshly/in reaction, when in fact I don’t know what makes or doesn’t make another person react and it isn’t something I can ultimately control, however I relay information
I forgive myself that I’ve accepted and allowed myself to go into blame and resentment towards a person that I see do something unacceptable/compromising/not best for all in situations where I fear to speak up and allow myself to subject myself to this fear – in blaming them for preventing me from speaking up and then trying to show them that what they are doing isn’t ok through subtle movements and manipulation – when that is in fact compromising in itself and not at all helping the situation or the person to change
I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to hide behind emotions of anger and let anger stand up for me as an opponent of fear when neither anger nor fear is really me expressing myself or what I see here in self-honesty and openness
When and as I see another doing something that I see without reacting inside myself, is compromising/unacceptable/not best for all and I see that I hesitate/go into fear about speaking up about what I see, I stop, I take a breath and I stabilize myself here in my body and I move myself to speak.
I realize that I have feared speaking up because I feared how the other person would react to me, within taking a reaction from another as an attack on me and as believing that if another gets angry with me it automatically means that I have done something wrong.
I realize that I have subjected myself to a cultural taboo where I have accepted and allowed within me the belief that it is not ok to speak up when one sees something unacceptable/compromising/not best for all because that makes you a ‘bitch’ or a ‘meddler’ or even a ‘snitch’ and I realize that because of this taboo we have created a culture where we cannot support one another to change and expand – believing that we all have to accept one another exactly as we are, when in fact, what we are is in dire need of change in many circumstances.
I realize that I, because of subjecting myself to fear, have compromised myself and others, to not speak up so I didn’t have to face the possibility of going into conflict with another and them becoming angry with me and as such that I have supported and endorsed compromising/unacceptable/not best for all behavior, in myself as well as in another
I realize that I have attempted to use diplomacy and self-censorship to soothe my fear of conflict, resulting in others not hearing, seeing or respecting me – because I have not respected myself but instead respected only my fear of creating conflict.
I commit myself to focus on my physical stability and expression when speaking up to another rather than focusing on censoring the information to avoid conflict
I commit myself to speak up when I see another doing something unacceptable/compromising/not best for all without going into fear about how they will react, but instead trust myself and what I see through in self-honesty checking myself for reactions and whether I stand clear or not – so that I can stand behind my words at all times