How many of us can boldly raise our hands in a room full of strangers and talk without fear of being judged?
How many of us can walk away from a friendship or relationship that we value so much yet doesn’t serve us?
If you have a thought/opinion/idea/suggestion, what would be holding you back from saying them out when you are in a class or project discussion/meeting?
We have a zone where we are comfortable in and it often takes courage and constant querying to break through them. Often times, this zone is like our safety net that acts like boundary where others cannot step in, but it’s also a barrier from within when we want to protect ourselves.
We feel safe inside this zone, but when this barrier is broken and the safety zone is breached, we feel exposed.
Just like our esteem.
We are afraid of hurting our esteem and confidence, that we tend to not do or say anything that might breach that zone. This is why we don’t proactively ask for what we want or raise our opinions for fear of being judged and so on.
When our sense of esteem and worth is low, we have little control or power over ourselves.
But why would we let others’ opinions of us, judgements of theirs define how good or bad, vocal or outspoken, confident or reserved we are? More importantly, why do we fear being judged?
Fear of judgment and rejection
I have never spoken up much in my first two jobs, and it started way back in my schooling days. When I was in my school project team, I would only sit and listen, even if it would go on and on without anyone having actually decided on anything, and I would be waiting for my ‘job assignment’ so I could get on with it. No questions raised, no suggestions made.
Throughout the discussions and meeting, I would have self-doubting thoughts that arose whenever I had some ideas: thoughts like
“If I said it out, would they laugh at my idea?”
“What if it’s a stupid idea or suggestion?”
“Should I tell now? Maybe I should wait. Maybe someone would raise this question.”
Sure enough, most times someone would speak what I was thinking and I would breathe with relief because (1) what I wanted to bring across was now brought to their attention finally, and (2) I need not muster any more courage to speak up now.
After a while, I would think to myself, “Hey, it’s not a stupid idea, after all, look at their responses.”
So I would tell myself to speak up next time. But next time, the same process repeats again.
My esteem and self-worth were directly linked to such events, and pretty soon, I stopped trying altogether because it seems too risky.
It wasn’t until I was in my third job that I decided I have to try and speak up otherwise it’s useless for me to sit in these meetings/discussions.
No, not really. It was only when I was challenged to move out from my comfort zone (for instance, being asked to do presentations or lead meetings), and when I got to know the team better, that I dared to speak up because I was more comfortable in their presence.
When I did my homework and felt prepared, I was not afraid to maintain my stand even when challenged.
7 Billion People, How Many Would Share the Same View as Me?
Different people have different views, my views may be similar or different from yours but let’s make a mutual agreement that it is okay to disagree.
That’s what makes us individuals. It is not quite possible to have everyone agreeing with most things. What seems logical to you may be impractical to others simply because our stands and perspectives are different.
When You Give Your Power Away
In your relationships, if you are always seeking for the approvals, permissions or acceptance of the other party, regardless of family members, partners or friends, you are relinquishing your power to them. When this happens, you naturally ask for their opinions and seek their approval and/or permission even though you already know what you want or stand for.
An example would be asking for opinions of your family or friends when you go shopping, whether it’s the design, style or the colour you want to get. Another instance would be not deciding for yourself, saying you are ‘okay with anything’ which in other words you choose to not decide which is also giving your power away.
When you do that, you are basing your happiness on the responses or reactions of others. When they don’t react to what you expect, there goes your moods/decisions/thoughts. Your days get affected and you feel awful because you would feel at loss and have no control over situations.
Even though you know you could do better, you limit yourself because of the fear of rejection and subject opinions or judgement of others. You start to think you are worth less than you thought. You end up giving more but getting lesser in return, that leads to disappointment yet again and it becomes a continuous loop of self-doubt and confusion.
If you have been giving your power away, and you feel belittled, less worthy and judged for your actions/words/thoughts, it’s time to reclaim your power back!
Step-by-step to take your power back and reclaim your worth
How do we know what power or worth we are talking about here?
Some of us know that we are giving too much power and attention to others, and not focusing enough on ourselves.
There are those of us who know we should be doing more for ourselves and treating ourselves better but don’t know how to start. So many questions yet not sure where to start finding the answers.
1) Decide that you deserve the respect!
Decide that you actually want your power back. Do to yourself how you would treat others. Show yourself the basic respect that you would give to others.
If someone takes advantage of a person you care for, what would you do?
Would you stand up for yourself like you would for your parents, siblings or your children?
2) Give yourself the due respect – Set boundaries
Start by giving yourself the respect you deserve. Establish your base line and limit that you would maximally accept.
When someone steps over this line, you would know because you start feeling uncomfortable and misaligned in what you want versus what others want you to accept.
Being conscious about setting your limits gives you the opportunity to prepare yourself when the limits are near and also, as a mean to protect yourself.
3) Treat others as equal
Being around certain people make us feel more self-conscious, as though they are above us. On occasions when you feel intimidated or felt forced to give in, realize that we are all human beings who are equals in this world.
Regardless of social class, positions, age or financial status, we all are living people who face our own challenges, struggles and emotions.
Perhaps the only reason they seem to have it all together is that they have been through more, gain more exposures and experiences and know how to deal with difficult situations better.
Understand that as you go along in life, you will face similar challenges as well.
Realizing this allows you a clearer perspective on your approach and communication with them.
4) See things objectively, don’t take it personally
When at school or work, if you are constantly being told to do someone’s work for them or often felt pushed to do something, and not because you want to help out or volunteer yourself, what would be a better way to handle this?
Speaking up for yourself does not mean you have to be aggressive (Click To Tweet). If you have no time and it is not within your responsibilities, it is more than logical to know that you have the right to reject.
Furthermore, make it a point to let them realize that you are helping them because you want to do it, not because you ‘have no choice’. Once you make that stand clear, the next time when they approach you will be more of a request than instructions.
At home, when you felt wronged, misunderstood or being lashed out at for nothing, do you speak up for yourself? Or would you think what they assume about you are right simply because they have been in your life for a long time? There are many people who live together under the same roof for years but they do not understand each other at all.
Although there are certain characteristics that make who you are today, who you were when you were 5 years old and now, there are obvious differences. People grow and change over time so it is not realistic to assume your personality would never change as you grow and learn more.
Your perspectives do change at various phases of life.
Within your social circle, if you have a voice, raise it (Click To Tweet). If you feel challenged or ignored, realize that you simply have to let them know your stand and NOT actually expect any one to agree or concur with you. You only have to tell them your point of view and that’s it. I suppose you wouldn’t want others to force you to accept theirs either.
It doesn’t mean that when one doesn’t agree with you, they are against you. Everyone has their rights to their own thoughts and opinions. Same goes for yourself.
5) Change Your Mindset – Change Your Body Language & The Way You Speak!!
The more you think you are defeated or powerless, the more it will show in your body posture and the way you communicate. You talk softly while avoiding direct eye contact, you slouch your shoulders, hem and haw at your statement.
In order to improve this, imagine how someone with self-confidence, someone who believes in themselves would communicate? How would their posture be like? How do they speak to others? What tone do they use? Do they have vibrant or open body actions like using their hands when they elaborate their stories?
They speak assertively and with confidence, not ending their statement with question marks.
They state (or tell) their intention or desires, not ask or seek approval.
They stand tall and speak clearly when making their point, not slouch.
They put their views first rather than speaking what others want to hear.
They make eye contact, not looking away when they speak.
6) Take it one step at a time
Acknowledge that this process of reclaiming your power back and regaining your self-worth will take time. It will not be a one-time exercise and definitely not easy but it is all worth it (Click To Tweet).
As a matter of fact, the habit of giving your power away did not start recently nor was it given away in a day. So it would not be practical to expect immediately rectification and expect it to stay as the new you with immediate effect.
However, this can be ingrained with practice over time.
This is the same as changing habits, in which we need at least three weeks of commitment and constant repetition to see any visible changes.
Even if you fail at first attempt, it does not mean you are a failure or you will never be able to stand up for what you hold true or think. It simply means what you are doing or the approach you are using may need some tweaking.
Find the glitch in communication efforts and approaches;
Learn different methods of managing relationships with various personalities;
Watch out for your own emotions (what trigger you instantly and how to keep calm);
Explore different methods when communicating with difficult people who refuse to take “No” for your answer;
Expand on the ways to build a confident front (Stand tall, breathe deeply, keep eye contact, talk clearly)