What Does it Mean to 'Speak Up' for Yourself?

What Does it Mean to 'Speak Up' for Yourself?  - Dr. Margaret Paul

We are often told that it's important to speak up for ourselves, but we have few role models for what this looks like.

Gwendolyn asked the following question about this topic:

"What does it look like to speak up for yourselves and speak our truth when someone treats us in an unloving way? And what is the difference between speaking our truth and bringing attention to someone about their behavior? I know it isn't similar, but it would be nice to have some clarity."

An example will help to clarify this…

Let's say that your friend, parent, or partner is judgmental toward you. The first thing that you need to do is tune into your feelings with compassion. Even if you don't take it personally, it's still going to hurt your heart if someone who professes to care about you is judging you.

Once you take a moment to care about your own feelings, then you need to consciously choose to take loving care of yourself, which means that you will either speak your truth and move into an intent to learn, or you will speak your truth and lovingly disengage. If your intent is to control the other person rather than to love yourself, then you will likely speak your truth as a form of control, trying to get them to see their behavior and change it. The outcomes of all these will likely be very different.

Here is what these would look like:

Intent to Love Yourself

Intent to learn: You say something like, "What you said, and your judgmental energy feels very hurtful to me. There must be a good reason you said that, and I'd like to understand it. Are you available to talk about it?"

If the other person gets defensive, angry, or withdrawn, or if you think there is little chance he or she will open to learning with you, then you can lovingly disengage, saying something like, "What you said and your judgmental energy feels very hurtful to me, so I'm going to go for a walk and take care of my painful feelings. Maybe we can talk about it later."

Then you leave without anger, or if you can't leave, you go inside and do an Inner Bonding process to lovingly manage your heartache. Disengaging is not the same as withdrawal. When you withdraw, you are pulling your love away to punish the other person. When you lovingly disengage, you are doing so to take care of yourself – not to control the other person.

If the other person opens later, then you can talk about it. If not, then you need to continue to lovingly disengage each time the person is unloving.

Intent to Control

If you say, "What you said and your judgmental energy feels very hurtful to me," and you don't move into an intent to learn or lovingly disengage to take care of your feelings, then the intent of the communication is to blame the other person. The statement is essentially making the other person responsible for your feelings. Your hope is that if they understand how you feel, they will become aware of their unloving behavior and change. But if you think back on this kind of interaction, how often has this turned out well? What generally happens? Most of the time, the other person goes into denial, or gets defensive, or blames you for their behavior – and you end up feeling worse.

I hope you can see that there is a huge difference between speaking your truth to take loving care of yourself and speaking your truth to try to get the other person to change. The energy of taking care of yourself will feel totally different to the other person than the energy of control – of "bringing attention to someone about their behavior," as Gwendolyn asked at the beginning of this article. We cannot hide our intent. It will always be betrayed by our energy, and the energy of loving yourself has a far better chance of leading to resolution than does the energy of control.

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