I used to spend all of my moments like a chameleon – always blending in, staying silent on the sidelines and being whatever color “they” wanted me to be.
I didn’t speak up when my feelings were hurt.
I said yes when I wanted to say no.
I always answered with “we can do whatever you want to do”.
I never said what I was thinking, shared my opinions/ insights or ideas.
I stayed silent.
This led me down a road of feeling resentful, misunderstood and invisible. But why did I do that when it made me feel so terrible?
Over the course of my lifetime I have heard things like…
“Your opinion doesn’t matter.”
“How could you possible know that.”
“You’re too emotional.”
“No one cares.”
It did not feel safe in my body or my mind to speak up. I didn’t want to make other people angry, feel disappointed in me or hurt their feelings. And I also didn’t want someone else to belittle or tell me that I was stupid or wrong.
But slowly and surely that changed. I no longer wished to live a life where I was not seen, understood and most importantly HEARD. I’ve given away too much energy, time, love and devotion to other people and things that didn’t give the same energy back. And I just no longer wished to live a life half lived because I wasn’t willing to speak up for myself, my desires, my needs or my boundaries.
This past weekend I went away with a friend to a women’s yoga retreat. Throughout different parts of the day we would sit in a circle and learn, journal and then share. During that time there were very specific “rules” one of which was no cross-talking (which is basically letting the other person share without interjection or sharing your own experiences/ opinions, etc.). I appreciated the point – to hold space and listen. I’m here for it.
Annnnnd….I’m not gonna lie – there were moments that I had to be reminded of this “rule” (sometimes I have a lot to say. Lol) And it was triggering for me. I do NOT like being told what to do or feeling like I’m being told to Shhhhh. But I sat with that discomfort in those moments because of the space we created. And also because I know that a “trigger” is really an activation – an invitation to dive deeper and heal.
On our last night, we closed our circle and the vibe quickly switched to a more general conversation. During that conversation one of the sisters there shared a really profound experience and we were all sharing, talking and supporting.
However, at one point I was once again told to be quiet. And that small trigger that was going off earlier during the retreat became a full on red button of rage. And I told the facilitator how I felt and that this wasn’t “circle time” and I didn’t appreciate her singling me out. Her response was “this isn’t about you, Amber.”
Cool cool. Good talk. (Yes, that’s sarcasm). I stepped away from the conversation because I knew I was going to go off, like full rage mode on this woman.
The next morning we woke up to being rained on and our morning session was cancelled as we packed up our camp site. We decided to get breakfast and do a quick close out session instead where we shared our biggest take always.
And I was still irritated from the night before. I did not really have anything that I WANTED to say to this person. But I knew I NEEDED to speak up. For myself, for my experience and also for her.
So when it was my turn to share, I told her why I was upset, why I felt singled out (considering I was the only one told to be quiet) and why it was important for me to speak up in the moment.
For me, this was a huge fucking deal. I was faced with the choice of practicing what I teach or avoiding perceived conflict. I had to choose between “keeping the peace” or speaking up for myself. I had to face the possibility that I would express myself and maybe this person wouldn’t be able to hear me and being okay with that or driving home feeling like I didn’t share my truth.
So really the only option that was acceptable to me was to speak up. And the key to alllllll of this was sharing from a place of love and kindness. Yes I was pissed. My crazy eyes were kinda out and my hands were shaking. I definitely had “No one puts Baby in a corner” kind of vibes. But I spoke calming and clearly and with a desire for both of us to be understood.
Luckily for all of us, I was with women who are committed to their personal growth and who came to this experience with an open mind and heart. She heard what I had to say, apologized for her behavior and for how it made me feel.
Best of all we left with hugs, smiles and gratitude for the experience, the feedback and the lessons learned.
My friend that was there sent me this quote afterwards and it said “I’ve learned that not speaking on things just to keep the “peace” is actually a trauma response. When you do this, you disrespect YOUR boundaries. No matter what, keep taking up space and use your voice.”
We all have experiences in our lives that can prevent us from using our voices if we let them. We all have “reasons” why it’s not safe to do so. But we also have strength, courage and a willingness to be vulnerable too. And from my perspective and lived experiences that is when the magic happens.
As my friend and I were leaving I said “I’m pretty fucking proud of myself this weekend. I said no when I wanted to. Asked for what I needed and I spoke up for myself.” I shared my experience, set a boundary and also in the end gave someone else an experience for them to learn from too.
When we keep ourselves silent we do ourselves and those around us a disservice to grow, to heal and to celebrate the victories that comes from owning who TF we are.
This!! This is why I teach what I teach. Because I know what it’s like to NOT speak up. To NOT own who you are. To NOT ask for what you want and need. And life is just NOT meant to be lived in that way. We get to live life FULLY expressed. In all the ways.
I am Amber. I have a lot to say. It is important.
And what you have to say in important too. And I am here for all of it and I’m here for you too. If you need support using your voice, I’m ya girl.