How Speaking Up Can Improve Your Mental Health
Recently, I have learned an interesting fact about myself in therapy. I do not speak up for myself enough, and as a result, my mental health has suffered.
I’ve always known that I can be a bit of a pushover when it comes to others. There are many times I’ve stayed in toxic situations in fear of others leaving me. I have often stayed quiet in situations where I shouldn’t have, and put up with things that were damaging to my mental health. But even though I knew it deep down, it did not fully resonate with me until my therapist pointed it out.
For the past few weeks, she has been encouraging me to be an advocate for myself in different scenarios in my life. I have taken her advice to heart and have been changing the way I present myself and have seen positive results. Since employing this lifestyle change for the past few weeks, I have had two friends comment on the shift without me prompting them or informing them of my goals I made with my therapist.
If you feel that you do not speak up enough for yourself out of fear of abandonment or confrontation, consider talking to your therapist about it to develop a plan like I did. If you are not currently in therapy, you can still work on using your voice more and maybe let a friend in on it so they can help encourage you through it.
There are three areas of my life where I feel like I needed work on speaking up for myself. Luckily, I felt like my home life and relationship with my family was decent on this front. I am comfortable enough with them to let them know if they have hurt me, or merely telling them about how I am feeling, good or bad. However, the other main facets of my life I needed work on were:
- Friends This has always been a work in progress for me. I am a lot better one-on-one in terms of opening up and having a voice, but I am not as strong when I am in groups. This is even harder for me to do when I am depressed or anxious. Over the past two weeks, I have gone on two outings with my group of friends and have pushed myself to speak up more. Usually in these outings, I retreat to a comfortable silence as I listen to others around me. Even though I became comfortable in this routine, I realized it was not entirely healthy. Others were able to openly share about their week – what happened at work, updates about family, etc. while I felt uncomfortable doing the same and would stumble over my words if given the opportunity to talk. I have pushed myself out of that bubble over these two weeks and have shared more about myself and started a few of the conversations. I felt confident and more sure of myself, and most importantly it made me feel part of the group when usually I feel on the outskirts of it.
- Work The past two months, I have had a lot of issues with my boss at work that has been causing me to feel an unhealthy level of stress in my life that even manifests outside of the office. She put a lot of emotional pressure on me and made me do things at work that I was not comfortable with and I never spoke up in fear of making the workplace tense or putting my job on the line. Two weeks ago, I found out that she was participating in some unethical practices and I worked up the courage to confront her and let her know how I was feeling. She was upset at first, but eventually thanked me for my honesty and told me she would stop what she was doing from now on. Although I cannot say for certain if that will hold true, for now, she has changed her ways and it has improved the workplace significantly. I also felt much better using my voice to speak up for myself, as everything had been weighing on me for weeks.
- Dating and relationships This final category is the most difficult for me, and one that I still need to work on. Something that my therapist has been training me on is how to be happy with being by yourself. I struggle immensely with being on my own and especially being single. Because of this, I have put up with a lot of abuse in my life from romantic partners. Although I did speak my mind some of the time, I allowed them back into my life numerous times without waiting for an apology or more importantly, without considering if this was a healthy choice for me. I tried to practice speaking up for myself this week with help from my therapist in this area. I had someone who I had been seeing for a little while ghost me about a month ago and then reach out recently apologizing and wanting to try again. I agreed, and once I saw them in person I explained that what they did was upsetting and I wish I was given an explanation or warning at the time. I kept it short and polite, but I was happy that I stood up for myself, even if it was a small step.
If you are reading this right now and feel like you can relate, I encourage you to take one step this week to do something for yourself. Do not let others push you around and speak up when something upsets you. I know it can be quite difficult, and it is something I am actively working on and need improvement with. However, it can be done with encouragement from others and setting goals.
Do you have any goals with your therapist that you have worked on? How do you work on yourself in day-to-day life? When are times that you want to speak up for yourself? Feel free to share your thoughts below!