Have you ever truly muzzled your own voice? I’m talking about downright silencing yourself out of concern others will judge you, understand you incorrectly, or worse laugh at you? Your insides have words to be expressed but your feelings or thoughts stop them in their tracks. In the therapy world we use fancy words like “projection” and “self-sabotage.” In terms of this reading …I’m calling it what it really is, FEAR.
Where Does This Fear Come From?
Where this comes from differs for us all. The origin of this behavior may have come from a family belief system (“you are to be seen but not heard”). It also can come from a past hurt (that time you braved up in school and answered a question in science class incorrectly and the mocking of your peers sitting behind you still rings in your ears.) Perhaps it comes from that inner courtroom inside you today questioning if you should continue whispering versus speaking your truth. Unfortunately, when we live life according to silencing our own voice it affects our life in many ways.
The hallways of seventh grade girls can be a place of laughter, sharing, giggles, and friendship building. Sadly, it can also be a place of feeling laughed about, talked about behind, giggles toward, and relationship exclusion. Incredible smart and competent women who live half their waking lives in the working arena often feel that similar pain and exclusion as the 13-year old girl with braces, her body growing up and out, and perhaps not knowing if UGGS and skinny jeans are okay to wear.
Not Being Your True Self Can Lead To Missed Opportunities
The downside to not voicing our true selves include an internal conflict of who we know we are and smile at in the mirror and the other side of ourselves created for hoped acceptance. Remember Rachel from Friends (who am I kidding, we all remember Rachel). We laughed when she appeared at Central Perk in her wedding dress after calling off her wedding. Monica showed up as her true self. She opened her home and heart and became her cheerleader. She herself was working hard at life and encouraged Rachel to do the same (even handed her the scissors to cut up the credit cards) versus talking her into marrying her fiancé dentist and running from being uncomfortable starting over. If Monica hadn’t stayed true to her inner self over time, she may have developed deeper anxiety and a missed opportunity for a friendship (and selfishly a fun television series many of us loved).
Perhaps for you it plays out in your life like this. A new person shows up at your work Monday morning at 7:55am. You notice them as you slip into the restroom to give yourself one last look over and ensure you have your game face on. The last few months you sense an uneasiness at the office. Daily you check-in with yourself due to a restless feeling you have because of the 158 rumors you’ve heard about a possible shake up. No, you don’t know all the details. What you do know is the pressure in your chest, the gurgling in your stomach even when you’re not hungry and the spinning of thoughts in your head. Seeing this new person just tipped all those dreaded feelings over like a wicked back flip. Game plan moment is on!
Suddenly you feel like you’re on the deserted island in the television show Survivor. Your true self would have gotten on the boat on the way to who knows where smiling and creating eye contact with all. Not in that strategizing way but in a warm, I’m truly glad to meet you way kind of way. At the time it might have felt like it did in middle school when you wanted to reach out to the new student but a small part of you was unsure if you “should” or if it was “cool.” Unfortunately, all this does is create a questioning of self and over time a separation from your peers. Essentially you may come across more like an island than who you really are. You wind up in a place often feeling alone and that no one knows the true you. It feels uneasy. Plus, people never get to meet the true you. They see an exterior shell of the true you you’ve dismissed. Simpler put, you had put on game face mode versus going over to say good morning and introducing yourself to the new person at the office.
People Read What They See
If your nonverbal communication sends the vibe “do not approach” people won’t. But the truth is it’s completely normal to have moments in life when we feel unsure of ourselves or perhaps what to do. Lots of people struggle to be vulnerable (thank-you Brene Brown). It can feel hard to go out of the box of expectations or norms (whether in the school hallway or office breakroom).
We want to be liked and accepted. A powerful place this can start is within you. One of my favorite words is “practice”. I think because it is so forgiving. Practice being exposed. Practice being seen. You may have had months or years of hiding yourself due to perceived “rules”. Throw them out, stomp on them, tear out that playbook. It is YOUR life. Yes, I’m screaming it. Hear me and trust you! You can be you.
It’s true when we hold back parts of ourselves, we may create road blocks both in our relationships and even our career growth. However, if we can learn and embrace that we are all people, similar in some foundational ways it is entirely possible to share who we truly are.
Keep reading for 4 reasons why you shining is powerful to you on the inside and for those around you
The biggest downside of not overcoming letting your true self shine is that you may go years and years of being misunderstood. Your family, friends, coworkers, and partner may not ever get to meet let alone enjoy the true you. Living this way is extremely exhausting. It’s as if you see you on a movie screen but the picture is too fuzzy to actually make out what you are watching.
At the very least you find yourself questioning to yourself the relationships around you and the spaces you spend time in. Resentments can build and build fast. It can feel as if your insides are screaming “Please notice me.” “Please hear me.” “I want you to understand”.
Too often we expect those around us to just know who we are. Mind readers we are not. I’ve had the pleasure of having couples in my office who have been together 50 years. They are incredible teachers. The wisdom and life years they have experienced at times bring about a peacefulness to just ask and share. While we may not all have 50-plus life years to us yet, we all have an internal barometer. Listen to it as a guide to tell you when you can be more exposed.
Showing Your Kind Self And Speaking Your Truth Grows Your Life In So Many Ways
Although you struggle with self-silencing, you have the potential to learn how to listen to yourself, hear your inner wants, and practice using your voice. When we choose to do this, there is the possibility to have incredible connections with others. Those chest flutters, stomach flips, and head spins also can stop. Anxiety too often rears its uncomfortable self when an internal conflict or struggle is felt.
Moms imagine your middle school-aged daughter coming home sharing a new girl named Jane started today and she noticed her sitting alone at lunch. When you ask if she joined her or if she asked Jane to join her friends she sheepishly says “no.” Further on in the conversation she states she wanted to, but she wasn’t sure how the other girls would feel so she kept quiet. Gently, you remind her how it felt when she was new to school and Jessica took her around and she looked up to her because Jessica moved around the school being confidant and not concerned what others thought of her. Jessica could be a mental mentor of sorts to remind her how to stay true to herself and show her kindness.
Take A Look At These 4 Reasons To Stay True To You And Show Kindness To Feel All Kinds Of Good:
Yes, it’s true you may be feeling uneasy on the inside about what you’re showing (or not) on the outside but the fact that your reading this and identifying it is absolutely life changing! I get it, you may be thinking that’s one heck of a bold statement……life changing. You bet it is.
Here’s the truth in it. If you know a middle schooler who currently holds back her true self and then from reading this you invite, gently challenge, verbally commit to practice being your true you alongside her you are making life changes. Not only in this connection but your daughter with her peers at school and perhaps you at work. Promise to smile and say hello to others. I get that it’s simple. What I also know is for some of us it is hard.
YOU’RE BEING YOUR TRUE SELF
One of the reasons you struggle to show your true self is you fear you may show parts of yourself others may not be ready to see or are unfamiliar with. It makes complete sense that you’re feeling uncomfortable and uncertain.
One of the first things individuals with such internal conflict I see do is take time exploring when and how they are getting in the way of themselves being seen. When you do this, you’ll keep a log book and act as if you’re going on a scavenger hunt. You’ll log the precipitating feelings or events that you experienced just before you muzzled yourself. If you’ve read my about page you know I invite playfulness and fun. We will review your list together and celebrate when you allow yourself to be how you want to be.
YOU’RE SENDING OUT AN INVITATION TO CONNECT
Yesterday at Starbucks the cashier, a woman older than myself smiled and looked directly at me as she took my order. Her warm smile was calming, as if an invitation to look right back at her. As I took my credit card from the machine, she wished me a good day. I turned around, leaned in and said, “I hope you know how pretty you are.” She said, “that made my morning.” She had a beauty about her and an availability for me to invite my inner voice to be heard.
I can say almost with sure confidence I may have not done that 20 years ago but as I, like all of us practice being our true selves it brings goodness. You may reflect on moments and situations you wanted to connect.
People who I see in my office get really good identifying those missed moments. Together we practice visualizing how they wanted them and hope to be when future situations present. Revisiting this mental picture helps build confidence.
YOU GIVE FEMALES A GOOD NAME
I may have (or may have not have) had Bon Jovi’s song “You Give Love a Bad Name” pop up in my head as soon as I wrote this. There is no way or reason to sugar coat this. It is heartbreaking sad when I hear teenagers, brilliant working women, and wise older women who play competitive bridge share their stories of pain and sadness when ridiculed or targeted by other women. The tissues may be flowing but we explore and process that hurt.
You did not get a say in what happened to you but we will empower and show you that you can choose how you will allow that to impact you.
Here’s the thing……when we come together as a team females are a force! I’ve seen it from the soccer fields to corporate team trainings. Be mindful of the kind of force you will be and show to others.
YOUR LEADERSHIP BRINGS VALUE TO THE WORLD
One of the reasons you may struggle with letting your true self shine is that your true you may appear different from everyone around you. It makes sense that you hold yourself back with hesitancy.
Instead of placing yourself in what feels like bubble wrap because it may make others feel more comfortable find that one person you can free yourself or the worry and shine through.
As silly as it may seem, when we run across this in my office and clients feel there is no one in their current circle they can be true with I challenge them to go outside the circle and yes that may mean someone at a Pure Barre class or a restaurant. You are stepping out and leading (by modeling) to others. I get it, not everyone may be ready to jump on board. Acknowledge those who do and commit to keep being you!
Granting self-permission to let your true you be and show others how you truly are brings about a sense of freedom and internal calm. You absolutely can step forward in life free from fear of being judged or misunderstood and instead appreciated and looked upon and Helene Shute, LCSW can help.