Speaking up for yourself can be tricky especially if you are used to being shut down. Like every good habit, it must be learnt. You will have to practice it continuously because the more often you do it, the better you will get at it.
Here are a few steps that will help:
1) Begin with a whisper. Whisper but say it so that you can hear your own voice. Keep whispering. Every time you say it to yourself, you believe in your own words, your truth. That belief is where your strength to speak boldly will come from.
2) Start with the little things with close friends and family.
‘I don’t like that dress’ ‘I do not have the time’ ‘Let us try this later’ ‘I am sorry I have a lot to attend to’ ‘I do not know how to fix this’ ‘I prefer chocolate to vanilla’ ‘This is not what I want in my life’ ‘NO’
3) Gradually, increase the volume. Say what you mean, and what you want. Make your voice louder than a whisper. Loud enough for you and the person seated next to you to hear you.
4) Add to those little things how people make you feel. Understand that you own your feelings and no one can tell you how to feel.
‘I do not like it when you speak to me in that tone’ ‘I would prefer to have this discussion with you when we are both calm’ ‘I strongly dislike the statement you made back there’ ‘I feel like your actions have betrayed my trust’ ‘NO’
5) Make bold statements. Make your voice louder and clearer. You believe in your words. You understand what you deserve. You own your feelings, and you know what you want. Say it so that you can hear it, and so can the people at the back.
The times when you feel the most terrified to speak up or stand up for yourself, when fear overwhelms and nearly paralyses you, when you are standing in front of that mean boss, the abusive partner, the school bully, that alcoholic parent or sometimes, even a well-meaning friend, it is the time more than any other time when you need to be BOLD.