When You’re Afraid to Speak Up and Be Yourself in Relationships

Upset Woman

“Your fear is boring.” ~Elizabeth Gilbert

It has taken me eighteen years of marriage, two kids, and twenty-plus years of healing to realize I have been afraid of being myself with my husband.

It has taken me decades to step into my power and become the fiercely alive, joyful, and creative expression I am today.

I often think about the guy I met at the bar on the beach and wonder about things like fate, purpose, and “The Grand Plan,” meant-to-be sort of stuff. I stare at my two gorgeous children and part of me knows that every morsel of pain was worth it. But I am sad and tired.

I have everything I am supposed to have, I have done everything I was supposed to do, and I have achieved so much, but still there is a hole in my soul.

Am I afraid to bring the bigger love into my life, to feel joy? Am I meant to suffer? Do I have the nerve to stick this out, face the mirror, and do the vulnerable work it might take to get where I want to be?

I have lots of unanswered questions.

Yet, when I slide out of my confused mind for a bit, into the now of me sitting in the little sanctuary I created, where I sort out my dreams, I am truly at peace.

The meanings and troubles, the disagreements and polarized values that plague my marriage with tension and keep me from deeper love disappear in a poof of sunrays through my big window.

I realized, after many years of searching, that I have been afraid to be me, but the me I have been afraid of expressing to my husband isn’t the same me he married.

I don’t remember feeling afraid when we met, all glistening and sandy on the beach, giving each other those “You’re sexy” and “I dig you” kind of smiles.

Standing there, gazing into his adoring eyes, at the beginning of my life, my career, and my marriage, I hadn’t arrived yet. The divine, creative, fiercely alive woman and healer would emerge many years later, so now I wonder, who the heck got married?

And so it goes—the people we marry, the family we grow up with, and the friends we have adventures with are growing, shifting, changing, and transforming, each in their own way, each on their own path, navigating life by our sides for a while until we don’t recognize each other.

I look up at my husband after he screams at our son for making his sister shriek by sitting on her, and I cower into the three-year-old little girl I have been fighting for forty years to not be. Who is that little girl, and why is she so afraid all of a sudden?

I am in a place in my life and marriage now where I can no longer tolerate what I feel when the three year old shows up.

I am braver and have cultivated the awareness it takes and the practices necessary to be with people who are on a different path, who may not be growing along with me, or worse, who criticize me for the way I live.

It seems like it took forever to get to the place where I am not willing to compromise my self-worth, but the rewards have been great.

These are the practices that allow me to stay and be me in this relationship.

1. Get clear about who matters to you, and why.

It is easy to stay confused about life; confusion doesn’t require making a choice or taking action.

I had to acknowledge that my marriage meant everything to me before I could commit to staying the course and devote to energy required to do that.

2. Get help with learning how to move through your fear and speak up for what you want in your relationships.

You can’t expect the people you love to read your mind, so express yourself, even when you are afraid. I received much help over the years to do this simple thing.

My rituals and practices have included therapies that opened my heart and energy, enhanced my awareness, and helped me discover my self-worth, such as:

  • John F. Barnes Myofascial Release
  • Acupuncture
  • Meditation
  • Breathwork
  • Emotional Freedom Technique
  • Life Coaching

A little work on my throat chakra didn’t hurt either. When I opened up the blocks and the fear that kept me from expressing my voice, a whole new world opened up to me.

 3. Discipline your mind.

Challenge the negative thoughts that sabotage your efforts to speak up, and fight for what you want in your relationships.

Your fear voice will come up with all sorts of reasons not to speak your mind. Some of them may be valid concerns; if you fear that speaking up may rock the boat, know that it possibly will. Unless you want to repress your true self indefinitely, it’s a risk worth taking.

As I recognized my fear voice more and more, and got comfortable differentiating her from the me that was the intuitive, joyful healer, I was able to give her a name: Martha.

Now, whenever that voice pipes up, I call her out. That separates me from the noise going on in my head and the meanings I give to the situations that make me feel powerless. When I notice Martha doing the talking, I detach. With awareness, I choose to believe and act differently in my conversations with people.

There are many ways to discipline your mind and detach from the negative thoughts that control you.

  • Therapies and books that focused on the mind/body connection were important for my transformation, such as Eckhart Tolle’s book A New Earth. Other authors that changed my perspective and boosted my awareness include Dr. Wayne Dyer, Rhonda Byrne, John F. Barnes, Anthony De Mello, Peter Levine, and Bruce Lipton. The key is to find the resource that wakes you up to the connection between your thoughts and your suffering.
  • Therapeutic writing and journaling helped me sort things out. This is a powerful tool that you can use to reflect and move the thoughts and energy from the inside to the outside, where it’s just words on a page.
  • Talking and connecting with other people can also be powerful. Sometimes a conversation about relationships or the mysteries of life will give you new perspective, and if you are paying attention, they might also provide a mirror to look at your own beliefs and attitudes.

4. Recognize when you feel fear, and use it as a compass.

Feel fear as a bodily sensation, keeping you small or preventing you from expressing the you that you desire to be in your relationships.

Fear can be your compass, giving you an opportunity to move through it and speak your truth.

To be myself with my husband meant I had to do this over and over again, and I did, learning along the way as the triggers got quieter and my confidence grew. Now, when I feel that tightness in my chest, I know it means I have a chance to express myself and do a tiny bit of healing.

5. Decide which relationships to let go of and which ones to nurture.

This is the choice that matters the most. Most days it was easier to just stay confused about this, playing out the foggy drama of my fears. Martha sounded something like, “I just don’t know what to do about this,” or “I just can’t make a decision,” or, my favorite, “I am just not smart/good/strong enough to make this happen.”

Getting clear about what I wanted, staying awake to my fear, and loving myself enough to make a choice was way more complicated and difficult than being confused. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been worth it.

I am going to nudge you gently now and ask you to take action on your dreams for big love.

Get clear about what you want. Start making choices, be aware of your thoughts, and move through the fear by speaking your truth to the people who matter most to you. The simple act of expressing yourself to the world is where the magic begins.

Upset woman image via Shutterstock

About Laura Probert

Laura Probert, MPT is the owner of Bodyworks Physical Therapy and the author of Warrior Love, A Journal To Inspire Your Fiercely Alive Whole Self, and Living, Healing and Taekwondo. She is the creator of the “When Your Soul Speaks,” workshop and runs a writing group of the same name on Facebook. More about her healing, writing and kicking passions: www.bodyworksptonline.com, www.bewarriorlove.com, www.facebook.com/warriorlove.

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