Challenges of speaking up - Heart on my sleeve
Challenges of speaking up - Heart on my sleeve

Challenges of speaking up

When asking you to speak up, it seems essential that we address the very real challenges that most people face

One of the first things we can do to shift some of the discomfort about speaking up is actively acknowledging the common challenges you may be facing.

They might look a little like this...

Challenge #1 Our desire to avoid pain

Speaking up and saying that we’re not ok means confronting hard truths and dealing with what we’ve been avoiding all along. It can feel incredibly overwhelming to make the decision to face the very things that have been causing us so much pain, particularly if we feel like we’ve been “managing it just fine” as we are. It’s understandable that it can feel like too much effort to tackle those demons, especially when we have no tangible experience with what might be on the other side. Even if it is freedom, recovery, or relief – we are creatures of habit that crave certainty, even when it isn’t serving us.

Challenge #2 Perception from others

We live in a highlight reel where we’re only shown the best, and even when we’re not, the stories of overcoming struggle can feel curated and unattainable. The concern about how other people will perceive us can keep us stuck in suffering, and whether it’s with our family, or our workplace – the often-self-imposed expectation that we need to maintain a brave face can perpetuate the fear of sharing that we’re not ok.

Challenge #3 Self-judgment

A huge part of staying silent about how we are really feeling is because we’ve shamed ourselves into believing that asking for help means we’re weak. We berate ourselves and fuel negative thought patterns like “I should be able to manage better”, forcing us to harden and take a “suck it up” approach when what we really need is a “let it out” avenue.

Challenge #4 Comparative suffering

We don’t believe that our issues are worthy of help. We constantly compare our own suffering to the atrocities of the world and rank ourselves lowest causing us to spiral into even further despair because not only do we feel like sh*t but now we’re ungrateful too?! How dare we. Here’s the thing, two truths can exist together. You can be experiencing debilitating anxiety AND a devastating war can also be occurring in Ukraine. They are both awful and hard, and they are both deserving of support.

Challenge #5 Having had a previously poor experience.

This one sucks. You were brave enough to reach out, raise your hand and say “I’m not ok” but instead of a helping hand up, you were given an out-of-touch high-five and then moved on your not-so-merry way. We know this can create a setback in speaking up and that’s totally understandable – it’s hard to trust that it won’t feel like you’re going to fall into a giant hole of invalidation or ignorance the next time you ask for help.

So how do we see each of these challenges less as barriers that stop us in our tracks, and more as obstacles that we need to manoeuvre around?

Consider what challenges feel real for you and then get honest about the fear it’s tied to. If you’re worried about letting people down - is that an accurate potential, or is it a limiting belief that you’ve been carrying around? The first step of courage in speaking up is becoming aware of our existing narratives and reframing how we see any perceived challenges.