I have a vivid recollection of one of the first times that I spoke my truth. I can still remember how anxious I was.
I worked with an African American guy who used a certain racial epithet freely and on a regular basis. This word deeply offends me and it always makes me uncomfortable to hear it. Words are important to me. They have frequency, and that word is just plain ugly.
I mentioned to him that the word offended me, and he said “I’m black. It’s my right to use it whenever I want. You don’t get to be offended by it.” I shut my mouth and put up with it for months after that.
One day I finally had enough and decided that I had to say something. I was terrified of confronting him, but I couldn’t take it anymore. I said to him in a shaky voice, “You have to stop using that word around me. It’s offensive and it upsets me every time I hear it. The reason I hate it is that the more you use it, the more comfortable people get hearing it. I don’t think that anyone should ever be comfortable hearing that word. You know that it upsets me, I’ve told you that, but you choose to use it anyway and I find that abusive and disrespectful.”
He completely disagreed with me, but he respected me enough to not say it within my hearing after that. I don’t think that what I said affected him one bit, but I know that it had a huge impact on me. I felt courageous, because for once I didn’t say “It’s fine” when it wasn’t. I said what I meant and I meant what I said, and boy, was it empowering.
Speaking our truth is sharing our reality. There is a difference, though, between speaking our truth and stating an opinion. My opinion about the word my coworker was using was that it was offensive and no one should use it; my truth was that I found it upsetting to hear and I felt a lack of respect from him towards me because he chose to use it in my presence, knowing full well that it bothered me.
Speaking your truth isn’t about expressing your opinion, but allowing yourself to be vulnerable by sharing what you feel and think. Embracing your honesty is a very empowering and liberating thing to do. It’s about saying “I’m not okay” when you aren’t, and “I’m fabulous” when you are.
It seems like such a simple thing, but it’s a huge challenge for most of us. Making a commitment to doing it can be frightening, because what you are committing to is nothing less than total honesty with yourself and others.
Sometimes we don’t speak our truth because we aren’t even sure what it is. We have to dig deep and find it, which can be a pretty scary thing. It takes courage to step into our feelings and then share them with others. People might be offended, or think less of us, or even hurt by what we say. If we do it with compassion and kindness towards ourselves and the person that we are speaking to, we move a little closer to leading an authentic life.
Barbara Buck is a Foundational Reconnective Healing Practitioner, writer, and teacher. For more information about her, please visit her website at www.theomancollective.com. Check her out on the Happy Empaths Twitter feed @the_empath.