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Learning to Speak Up: You Deserve to Meet Your Needs

“Ask for what you want. Give other people the opportunity to say ‘yes.’ Stop saying ‘no’ for them. “ ~Roger Ellerton

I never realized until very recently exactly how hard it’s been for me to speak up for my needs. To ask for what I require and want. I honestly don’t know how I’ve navigated through life.

Let me rephrase that: I’ve managed life by being very passive, ignoring my own desires. Then that small grain of resentment would build into frustration, and I would explode.

I became a fiery and angry woman. I expressed my needs in a destructive manner, ranting and raving and writing emotional emails and text messages. It’s no wonder people didn’t take me seriously or listen!

“Tammy’s having a freak out,” they’d say, or, “Tammy’s in a mood.”

This only compounded my anger and frustration.

What a vicious cycle I was living. Inner peace was difficult when I couldn’t ask people for what I required. I’m not talking about needs like asking for the salt across the table. I’m talking about emotional needs, financial needs, needs in the workplace and in relationships.

If I was speaking up on the behalf of someone else, that was easy for me. It just wasn’t easy for me to express my needs.

This revelation about this pattern has become crystal clear over the past few weeks, and more so the past few days.

Hubby and I have renovations being done, with a big monetary investment. The tiling was not acceptable. There were big gaps. Some were not aligned properly. Some were jutting out over others. It was not flush. It was not up to our expectations or in alliance with the money we paid.

Something had to be said. I work from home, so I’m the one to communicate our dissatisfaction. A fear came over me. I felt physically sick. I didn’t want to hurt the tiler’s feelings.

He’s a nice young man and is very pleasant to chat with. However, the work wasn’t up to standard. How could I say this? My goodness, how my stomach churned, and my head began to ache.

I didn’t have time to be passive (which is my normal pattern—to let things slide). This is a building site, and if I wait, it will be much too late and we’ll be stuck with shoddy work. I had to speak up.

This broke my lifelong pattern of suppressing my emotions, needs, and desires. With no anger, resentment, or bitterness built up, my communication was much more relaxed, loving, and friendly. I was able to write initially and then discuss our concerns, in a very amicable and approachable manner.

Although I was nervous and anxious, time restraints forced me to take immediate action to remedy the situation. What a beautiful lesson from the Universe.

Needless to say, because I was able to bring up our issues and concerns lovingly and at the moment the problem arose, they were resolved quickly. Can you imagine if I’d waited until I was so angry and upset that I exploded?

Can you imagine how the people would have reacted if I fell into my usual pattern of waiting until I crack? I know from experience that it would not have been friendly or helpful. It would have spiraled out of control with everyone feeling negative and horrible.

What insight for me! I never realized my issues came back to me being unable or unwilling to speak up for what I need.

I surmise this comes from observing my mother growing up, who is a meek lady who'd much rather go without or put up with stuff to keep the peace. I also observed my father who is volatile and more aggressive in nature. If things go wrong, his first reaction is anger, with a lot of swearing and cursing.

Neither of these is the best model for coping with life, so I’ve developed my own way, which hasn’t served me well.

The Universe has given me a clear and concise lesson. It’s one that I’ve had many times over and failed to learn. The amount of incidences I can reflect upon, and link to my inability to speak up for a need that wasn’t being met, is staggering. Thank goodness the Universe is patient. I’ve grappled with outbursts for years.

I know I will overcome this issue. I will speak up lovingly, at the moment something is annoying me or not serving a need. I also know that the Universe will provide me with many occasions to put into practice my newfound wisdom just to show me how far I’ve come.

We are all capable of speaking up, and even the meekest person must learn to do it.

When you suppress your true feelings, they don’t disappear or go away; they transform into something else. For me, they transform into explosive anger. Other people’s suppressed emotions manifest into depression, anxiety, or some other physical illness.

A dear friend of mine gets mouth ulcers when she’s holding back her true opinions and not voicing them. It’s not healthy to “keep the peace” at all costs, and why should you?

You are worth it, and you deserve things to be right for you. Speaking up for your needs does not make you a difficult person. It means you respect yourself and know that you deserve better than what you are receiving.

About Tammy Hatherill

Tammy Hatherill is the owner/operator of Tammy’s Tarot and Healing. She is a well-known Tarot and Reiki Master/Teacher with a regular radio segment on 104.1 Territory FM. Tammy is the author of two books: Trapped Behind Bars and The Diary of a Fallen Angel. You can find her website at tammystarotandhealing.com and Facebook.

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  • Mand

    Great post, thank you! Reminds me of a situation I had recently where instead of speaking up when a friend had upset me, it manifested and I blew up at her in front of a lot of people! Luckily I was able to sheepishly explain to her the reasons why I had reacted like that and we sorted things out. But I think it could have easily been avoided had I just calmly spoken to her beforehand! Your post is a great reminder of being consciously aware in such situations and I will certainly keep it in mind. 🙂

  • kat

    This post got my name written all over it, that is true when you suppress your own feelings it won’t magically disappear, mine transform into depression, i need to keep on reminding my self not to over whelmed with it every time it happens. Still in the process to learn how to speak up though, it’s quite hard if you’ve been doing that since forever, but hey at least now I am admitting I do have this problem 🙂 thx for the post! great reminder

  • peppy

    You could be me! That is exactly the lesson I am learning these days, how to have a voice for myself. Also learning it’s okay to have expectations or depend on others (in relationships as well as the workplace) and to hold people accountable when they don’t follow through, instead of just letting it go or waiting till I get over it (cause I never actually do). So hard!! Think it will be a life long journey but first step is recognizing I have a problem. Great article and so timely for me!

  • lizacat29

    Exactly me too! A few years ago, when I left a long term marriage, a counselor told me that it is going to feel like I am being selfish when I speak up and say what I want. And it is still the hardest thing for me to do. First, I have to stop the auto-pilot response of “just letting it go”. And then get the words past those “mean dragon ladies” that live in my head and tell me stuff like, “you sound stupid, or mean, or selfish or all of the above…” and “it isn’t all that important is it?”…and “what if you make them mad at you or what if they don’t like what you say?” And what if…..wait for it…there has to be a CONFRONTATION?”

  • lizacat29

    Yep, a daily struggle, a long journey…but each time you speak up and do it, it gets a bit easier.

  • lizacat29

    Yes, I had depression for awhile. And yes, I also find it extremely hard to change what has been both an ingrained habit, and also kind of a twisted core value system. Always a process, and kind of a challenge every time we have to do it… but so worth it.

  • Tammy Hatherill

    Hi Mand, yes it’s very easy to NOT speak up when something comes up, to keep the peace, and yet it ultimately leads to a bigger explosion, such as you describe. I’m so glad that you were able to explain things to her. I hope the relationship was saved. I have lost people in life by exploding and not been able to fix things… so a big lesson…. Thank you for your comment <3

  • Tammy Hatherill

    Hi Kat, you are so right!!! It’s very difficult to speak up for yourself when most of your life, you’ve done the opposite. At least you are aware of and know that it can lead to depression for you. Awareness is a wonderful thing. I’m sure you’ll keep learning and keep getting better at speaking up for you!!! Don’t forget that YOU are the most important person in life!! You are number one, and everyone else comes in 2nd…. you are no good for others if you are not healthy so it’s not selfish. Big hugs. Tammy xxx

  • Tammy Hatherill

    Hi Peppy, you are spot on!! YES we are allowed to have expectations and depend on people and speak up when we need to. By not speaking up, we are doing ourselves a dis-service and in fact, could be making ourselves ill. So glad the article came at a good time for you. Love, light and harmony. Tammy x

  • Tammy Hatherill

    Lizacat29, that’s it!!! I was always afraid of hurting people’s feelings or having them dislike me, because I was speaking up for myself. It’s a very difficult thing to do (speak up) especially when you’ve been raised to ‘keep the peace’. My mum is a very meek lady and never spoke up for herself, and she still finds it difficult…. so with being raised like that, I thought it was ‘normal’ not to be assertive. Love your description of the “mean dragon ladies” that live in your head. HOWEVER no it’s not selfish at all to stand up for ourselves. We can all learn to do it together <3 Thanks for sharing your experience. Warm wishes. Tammy x

  • Krystle

    Thank you so much for writing this! I struggle with this so much and it actually bites me in the ass in the end leaving myself and those involved extremely frustrated. I didn’t have a problem with this until I was in my 20s and now it has become a bad, bad, bad habit.

  • Claire

    As I was reading this, all I could see was myself. Having supressed my my emotions for so long the day finally came just this Monday gone where I totally lost it and exploded. It wasn’t pretty t say the least. I have made the decision to speak up from now on, regardless of what I think people will think of me. It’s my right. I’m not selfish by doing so. I will make the change and learn to speak up. Thanks for a great article – a much needed read for me 🙂 x

  • Tammy Hatherill

    Hi Krystle. I’m sorry to read you are struggling with speaking your truth and speaking up for yourself. It’s not easy but with practice we can all learn to look after ourselves… so keep trying and I’m sure you’ll master it. Big hugs. Tammy xxx

  • Tammy Hatherill

    Claire that is awesome that you’ve made the decision to start speaking up for yourself. I know I’ve exploded over the years when things have just become too much, and its never pretty. Learning to ask for what we need is hard but worthwhile. Best of luck on your journey. Warm Wishes. Tammy x

  • Mahesh Sahu

    I was exactly like you, Tammy. I find that my attitude is similar to you.. on this issue. I also used to avoid speak for even righteous demands from anybody. I have learned with time and now I am better and the process is going on.. Thanks for sharing

  • Tammy Hatherill

    Hi Mahesh, thanks for your comments 🙂 I’m so happy to read that you are getting better at speaking up as time goes on. Big hugs. Tammy xxx

  • neko

    We had the same parents. I started auto repressing (anger flares, and then goes away, without me willing it to) over 10 years ago, and I’ve yet to explode. I’m worried that I will someday, at some poor soul who doesn’t deserve a whole lifetime’s worth of anger raining down on their head. I am trying to find that happy medium between super passivity and over aggressiveness. I think your way of speaking up lovingly might do the trick. Thanks for this!

  • AR

    Thank You Tammy for this article. It’s me! I’m too afraid to speak out, at the person who has wronged me, and I resent inside till I spoil my mood and get headaches. I’ll vent to someone else about how it was unfair!!!

    I’m afraid of hurting that person’s feelings, although he/she obviously didn’t think twice.

    How do you develop the courage to speak up is what I need to learn.

  • My inability to express my true feelings (and honestly, true identity) definitely contributed to the emergence of my depression. Once I started accepting my feelings as valid and representative of a larger problem, I was able to start getting help and making changes.

  • Tammy Hatherill

    Hi Mallie, so glad you are accepting your feelings as valid now. That’s awesome!!! Thanks for sharing. Tammy x

  • Tammy Hatherill

    Dear AR, thanks for sharing your experiences. It’s not easy to speak up, that’s for sure, but with practice it does become easier. Perhaps there are some assertiveness courses in the area where you live? Good luck. Tammy x

  • Tammy Hatherill

    Hi Neko, the good thing is, you are aware of your passivity v’s aggressiveness so that’s a great thing to be conscious of. I’m sure you’ll find your happy medium and as I suggested to someone else on here, perhaps there is an assertiveness course, somewhere close to where you live? Thanks for sharing your story. Tammy x

  • Ian Wilson

    Great article, rings true with me. Never thought about the emotions being manifested into something else if not expressed but it makes sense. Something to work on. Thanks

  • jes gam

    my what a good story. truly the universe gives us what we need even when we think it’s no good. but it is good! the universe is so patient with us that we are able to learn

  • Cassie Jo

    I get anxiety from trying to make things okay and I see it and trying to change it by speaking up. It’s not easy todo.

  • Sandra Van Scyoc

    I could have written this!

    Question – who is the artist of the lovely picture at the top of the post?

  • XxCupcakexX

    Halooo. I’m in my early 20s (on the verge of being in mid-20s) and it’s frustrating to know that I’m an adult already and yet, I’m still having difficulties speaking up. I’m glad I stumbled upon this article. It makes me feel less alone. The Universe challenges me from time to time. There are times I get so proud of myself. Other times, I beat myself for not being able to do so. I need consistency and strength in times of doubt. May the Universe continue to provide for me.