Earlier this week I popped in to a coffee shop after running some errands. I was feeling productive and the weather was feeling hot, so I decided to treat myself to a specialty iced coffee. I ordered my drink and waited at the pick-up counter until my drink was ready and my name was called.
When I heard my name I grabbed the cold cup, slipped my straw in through the lid and took a big sip. Instead of a sigh of satisfaction, though, I let out a big sigh of disappointment. My drink was missing something. It wasn’t what I had ordered.
I stood there for a moment, took another sip to be sure and thought about what I should do. I’ve never been one to send back food or drinks and ask for them to be made right. I tend to “let it go” and pretend it doesn’t matter to me so as not to “cause a scene.” But, this time, it did matter to me.
I had paid $4 for a coffee that I was very much looking forward to, only to be let down by what I had received. So, in the spirit of being true to myself, I spoke up. I smiled at the man behind the counter and politely suggested that my drink had been made incorrectly.
I tell you this story because I believe the words we don’t say are often as important as the words we do say. In fact, the words we don’t say can hurt us. Even simple words, like “I’m sorry, but my drink was made incorrectly,” can hurt us if we hold them in. Why? Because our voice is like a muscle – the less we use it, the weaker it becomes.
If I hadn’t spoken up at the coffee shop, I would have simply walked away disgruntled and resentful. But that’s a problem in and of itself. I would have been choosing unhappiness for the sake of staying quiet and unnoticed – a choice I’ve quite frankly made one too many times in my life.
But, over the past few years, I’ve been learning the importance of a little thing called “speaking your truth.” In any given moment you have a flood of thoughts, feelings, emotions, desires and beliefs about yourself and your world. When you put a voice to the flood, that is speaking your truth. This doesn’t always mean your truth is the truth. It simply means you are expressing what you believe to be true about you and about the circumstances in which you find yourself.
Now, I want to be clear that speaking your truth doesn’t give you the right to say anything to anyone. I could have told the barista at the coffee shop he was ignorant for making my drink incorrectly, but that would not have been speaking my truth. Instead, that would have been projecting my narrative of his competence onto him. My truth was my drink was made incorrectly and I wanted it to be made right. My truth was not an indictment of this man’s intelligence.
Too many of us have fallen for the lie that kindness and firmness are mutually exclusive. Yet, you can be kind AND speak your truth firmly because your truth is about YOU. Your truth is about who you are, how you feel and what you want. It is not an excuse to be unkind to someone else.
Healthy communication in relationships is a great example of your truth being about you. It is perfectly okay to tell your partner the truth about what you want or to be firm about how their actions make you feel. It is not okay, however, to call your partner names or use your truth to belittle or shame them. There is a clear difference in the two behaviors. One is about honoring yourself. The other is about dishonoring the other person to make yourself feel better. Bringing someone else down will never ultimately build you up. Bringing someone down will always bring you down with them.
So, how do you become adept at speaking your truth kindly and firmly? The first step is to get in touch with yourself. If speaking your truth feels foreign, it’s probably because you don’t know who you are, what you want, or how you feel. A few months ago, I wrote a blog post about listening to your inner wisdom. Your inner wisdom is always speaking to you, revealing your truth in any given moment. You just have to listen, then act.
Second, start to believe your truth is yours. Who someone tells you you are, may not be who you really are at your core. What someone tells you you should want, may not be what you actually want. And what someone tells you to feel, may not reflect your true feelings. Your desires, feelings and sense of self have always been and will always be for you to decide for yourself.
Lastly, remember that practice makes progress because there is no such thing as perfection. The only way to progress in your ability to speak your truth is to practice doing it regularly. You won’t always get it right, especially when you are learning to merge kindness and firmness. However, it’s absolutely necessary you try.
That’s why I opened this post with such a simple example of speaking my truth. Again, I could have not spoken up at the coffee shop when my drink was made wrong, but that would have only diminished my courage to speak up the next time I was in a similar situation. Every time you speak your truth, you are building your truth muscle. You are building the courage and strength to speak up for and become your best, truest self. You are using your voice to blossom.
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