There were times in life when I knew the right answers but I was tongue tied.

Much later in life I realised why.

I’m the youngest of five children in an extremely traditional family. You know that saying, “Children are meant to be seen, not heard”? That was drummed into me every single moment in my young life.

Don’t contradict my parents. Or elder siblings. Or anyone who walks into the house. Those were the rules I had to abide by.

Growing up, it felt that everything I said was either wrong or had no merit. That was the drama that I went through.

I Believed I Could Speak

As a young adult, I thought I had let go of all of that. I told myself that I knew my stuff, and nothing would get in my way. I was ready to take on the world!

Thing is, the unconscious mind has a funny hold on us. As does our body cells. The old conditioning remained buried under layers and layers of other experiences and beliefs.

One of the things I gained after I had started my spiritual journey was more awareness and understanding of my thoughts, actions and behaviour.

I noticed that though inside of me I had ideas and knew ways to solve issues, I could not say them out allowed. Worse, some individuals just had to murmur their disagreement and I would shut up for good. That’s when I started to observe when and why these took place. It turned out to be a combination of reasons.

In some cases, I was not speaking up because I:

  • felt I had to play nice
  • feared the person would punish me
  • was reminded of my parents or siblings when I looked at the other person (s)
  • dreaded the thought of long-term fights if I voiced my thoughts
  • worried that others would gang up on me or abandon me
  • felt that what I had to say may be wrong, making me look like a failure

Looking back on my working life, there was a place that I worked at where my boss was an elderly gentleman who reminded me of my father. I dared not contradict him 100% and never stood up for myself. No matter how irrational he was, I could never disagree with him. That’s how deep the conditioning was.

The good news is that it is possible to overcome this fear of speaking up. Here are some ways to do it.

  1. Watch Shows Like Shark Tank

The sharks are successful people in the business world. They’ve each got their own way and beliefs on how you can succeed in the business world. If you’ve never watched this American show, check it out.

Observe how they sometimes offer different solutions to one problem. Despite other sharks or even proven facts disagreeing with them, they stick to their guns. That’s true faith in themselves. Something that you need to speak up.

Hats off, especially to the female sharks (usually one or two out of five of them) who don’t let the male sharks rattle them.

It was a good reminder that all roads lead to Rome. Remember this the next time Ms Know-It-All tries to stare you down.

Don’t let her booming voice and alpha male confidence make you feel small. And by the way, people who do this usually have their own internal struggles going on. Ideally, this is when we practise compassion and patience.

At the same time, please don’t shut out other people’s views. There may be a gem or two there. Just understand that we live in an age where we don’t always have to comply with the old Asian niceties or manners.

Politely ask the person with strong views thousands of questions. Not to frazzle them but to understand their views further. Then challenge her if you have to. This was usually the part where my old conditioning would yell at me.

My cells would remind me to play nice and that disagreement was wrong. For my parents, disagreeing meant I was being disrespectful. My cells contained all of these old memories which I eventually pulled out.

  1. Acknowledge My Worth

Often in the past, I had undervalued my input.

In university, there was this group discussion where I put my idea across. With a smirk, the group leader loudly pooh-poohed my idea. BUT, when time came to presentation to the whole class, he shared my idea. In fact, he made it seem like it was his own idea! I sat there dumbfounded.

Little did I know then, that that’s a common scenario in the working world.

I did not confront him then or later for taking credit for my idea. Nor did I make it clear to the class that it was my idea.

As I moved on in life, I learnt from stronger individuals that there were many ways to tactfully take ownership of my ideas on the spot. But you see, that would have required self-worth, which I did not have much of then.

Building up self-worth is possible.

In the early stages, I kept a folder with all my achievements. This included when the Art Director praised my copywriting skills, when my training participants praised my fun sessions, when clients asked what other sessions I conducted, etc.

Each time my self-worth plunged, I would take out the folder.

Today, when I do something right, I give myself a pat on the back. It can be something small or a major achievement. I celebrate it all and give myself the credit I deserve.

I no longer wait for the outside world to approve me, my work or my life.

  1. Work With My Body

Previously, when I tried to muster up the courage to speak, my body would take over. My cells would tremble and feel most uncomfortable.

Even if the mind had entered the room determined to speak, the body would spring into action. To stop me from speaking, it would scream, “NO! Take flight or freeze! Do anything but don’t open your mouth!”

You see, my cells contained the past. The past painful experiences and conditioning. I worked hard to release many of these using the various healing tools that I had picked up. It was an enriching process. With each session, a layer would come up including wounds from this lifetime and others. I healed and let go of many of them, for they no longer serve me.

If you should feel your body freezing when you need to speak, try taking deep breaths. Ask your cells what is going on. And release whatever that comes up. This should help you for starters.

Watch out though. When you feel that you have finally got the nerve to speak up, the universe may test you. If you don’t succeed, don’t worry. Keep building up your self-worth and confidence, whilst also releasing the past conditionings. Never give up.

Sheela Prabhakaran is a writer and trainer who has a keen interest in people and nature. Her career started out in publishing followed by many years in Corporate Communication. Over time she has reached out to people of all walks of life through copywriting, writing books and articles. Her training experience includes Business English and Communication. She has embarked on an exciting new spiritual journey which sees her exploring more ways to share ideas on leading a healthier and happier life. She can be reached at sheelaprabha@gmail.com