Speaking Out

How often we proclaim “I would have…” and then launch into a fantasy narrative in which we shine as the brave, bold hero in a situation that demands action. The reality is that it’s easy to say; not easy to do – we’re often blanched and quelled in the face of adversity or confrontation.

There was a situation years ago in which I was frozen with inaction; I didn’t speak out against sexist remarks that made me feel degraded and disgusted. Noticing my shift in mood, the person I was with at the time ordered me sharply not to say anything; that I was hypersensitive and overreacting. (Ah yes, the old “gaslight and silence the hysterical woman” routine – what a classic.)

I swallowed my words and buried my feelings. The disgust I felt about the behavior that I witnessed turned inward, as I berated myself for not speaking up against the sexism and not standing up to that ex. This would become the pattern of our now thankfully defunct relationship.

During that time I felt so disappointed in myself; repressing emotions and words was making me sick. I continued to smother my thoughts and feelings, burying my truth and dignity until I could no longer bear the weight of the mask and armor of feigned normalcy, and I severed ties.

Though all of this happened many years ago, my silence haunted me – my failure to act resulted in regret, guilt, and shame. I’ve done the work to forgive that past version of myself who didn’t speak up. She didn’t have the self-value that I possess now; she didn’t fully know, appreciate, respect, and embody her self-worth. (She also hadn’t read the life-changing work of Harriet Lerner yet.)

If you have a similar situation that is weighing on you, give yourself permission to set that burden down. None of us are perfect, and life is not a scripted film in which we are the champions in all our challenges. Let’s remove “I would have” from our lexicon so we’re not one-upping or -downing ourselves and others.

We can do the work of affirming our dignity and worth right now with boundaries and compassion; through the ongoing practice of healthy truth-telling, we strengthen our foundation of self-respect.

2 thoughts on “Speaking Out

  1. Such a powerful sharing.
    Yes, yes!
    We need to show ourselves the kindness that the “Love that holds everything in being” shows us. We are all imperfect. We need to know that in spite of our imperfections we are always worthy of love. Love is the pattern in the chaos. And vulnerability allows us to open ourselves to that love.

    Liked by 1 person

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