May 7, 2013

The One Thing More Frightening than Speaking your Truth Is Not Speaking It.

Fall in love with your own voice.

“Once you start to speak,

people will yell at you.

They will interrupt you,

put you down,

suggest it’s personal and

the world won’t end.

And the speaking will get easier and easier.

And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had.

And you will lose friends and lovers and realize you won’t even miss them. And new ones will find you and cherish you.

And you will still flirt and paint your nails, dress up and party.

And at last, you’ll know with surpassing certainty that one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth.

And that is not speaking.”

~ Audre Lorde

How do we find our voice?

For a client of mine speaking up started very simply. She told her husband that she wanted to buy chicken from a local farm. Eating whole, organic food that was in balance with the Earth was a huge value of hers. He valued spending less money on food. For a long while she did what many of us might do in such a situation, she got sneaky and evasive about where she was getting the chicken. But when she saw what it was costing her to withhold—hiding, lying and manipulating—she decided that it wasn’t worth it.

So, she started telling him the truth—enthusiastically answering his questions with, “Yes I got chicken—and it’s from the farm!”

Once you start to speak, people will yell at you.

His response? He put her down, suggesting that she couldn’t be trusted to manage money, that she was crazy—even paranoid about her kids’ nutrition and health.

Psychologically speaking what she was doing is called “differentiating.” I would define this as knowing the difference between yourself and another, and letting go of any expectation of what might happen if you oppose what others expect from you. It’s not about simply opposing someone, rather it’s about speaking and acting from your own internal sense of rightness and motivation. For her, that was buying organic chicken from a local farm, as well as telling the truth to her partner about it.

Speaking our truth isn’t about judging others or verbally vomiting on them. It’s not about giving someone unsolicited advice, a piece of our mind or getting up on a soap-box.

Actually, it’s about self-confrontation. Dr. David Schnarch, author of Passionate Marriage, says, “When you stop putting up with your own shit, you stop putting up with other people’s shit.” My client stopped putting up with hers—the lying, withholding and manipulating, as well as her own self-doubt and guilt. She decided to stand true to herself and just find out what happens from there.

When we begin to differentiate there is a predictable response from those close to us—they usually pressure us to go back to our old way of being. If you take this route, be prepared.

It’s important to note here that they are not being “bad. In fact, we also pressure people close to us when they step outside what we are expecting. How do you respond when a beloved partner tells you that they are in love with someone else, for example?

So, just know that when you begin to use your voice things may get worse before they get better.

My client got push-back, but the world didn’t end. She, like all of us, got the bug to start speaking what’s true in an even bigger way. It gets easier and easier.

And yes, as she self-confronted and became more honest with herself, she also stopped putting up with other people’s shit. Why was she allowing herself to be called crazy, irresponsible and paranoid for following her own values anyway?

A great question to ask at yourself at this point—something I learned from author, Byron Katie—is, “What did I want in that situation such that I didn’t speak up or honor my own truth? What was I afraid of losing?” That’s why we don’t speak up—because we want something or we are afraid to lose something—every time.

At this point it’s not rocket science. What do we want or are afraid we might lose? Stability. Maybe a two-parent home for our kids. Financial well-being. Validation. Love. Inclusion. And the truth is that if we speak with our true voice we might indeed lose some of these things. Maybe all of them. The question then becomes, what is more important to us: our integrity, or the list of things we might lose?

Let it be known that finding and speaking your true voice is not for the faint of heart.

It may well lead to a whole new life, and to the loss of friends, family and lovers, who—as the poem says—you will not miss. We were only seeking ourselves through them anyway, and now we have a more direct path.

Then conversely, sometimes our true voice might say “I love you,” when we think we shouldn’t, just as it says “no” when we think it should say “yes.” And the wildness that is in us starts to emerge.

As we come to hear it more and more, we fall in love with our own voice and that is a whole adventure unto itself—filled with risk, uncertainty and being pushed to our edges. If it weren’t we’d have done it already. To start speaking truly, without regard for consequences, puts us on a path of unprecedented discovery. It leads us out of the maze of the mundane, the known, and dare I say the deadness. It leads us into the certainty—that the one thing more frightening than speaking our truth is not speaking it.


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Ed: Kate Bartolotta

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