When you don’t speak up because “It’s not worth it”

not worth it

Tell me if you can relate to this:

You’re sitting in a work meeting, and someone says something you disagree with. You think about speaking up to share your opinion or different idea, but the little voice in your head says, “Ehh, don’t bother, it’s not worth it.” (Then later, you kick yourself when someone else shares the same idea you had.)

Or you’re talking to your mom/sister/friend/spouse/etc., and they say something that totally rubs you the wrong way. You feel hurt, annoyed, and resentful, but when you consider bringing it up with them, you immediately think, “This isn’t worth making a big deal about. Just let it go.” (Except the next time that same person gets under your skin — and they inevitably will — the resentment shows up again, and it’s even bigger this time.)

Or your manager gives you overly critical feedback on an assignment, even though you worked your ass off to meet his impossible deadline. You want to stand up for yourself, but once again you think, “What’s the point? It’s not worth it.” (But later that night, you find yourself scrolling through job listings online.)

Sound familiar?

I know it does for me.

Since this is my year of self-expression, I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to what prevents me from speaking up, especially when I sense a brewing conflict or potentially uncomfortable conversation. I’ve heard this same phrase ringing in my own head enough times (and from enough clients, too) to feel pretty sure that I’m onto something …

“IT’S NOT WORTH IT”

I’m finding that the times when I’m least likely to speak up — which also happen to be the times when I most WANT to speak up — are when I’m worried that I’m going to create (or inflame) some kind of conflict or discomfort.

When I’m angry, hurt, annoyed, frustrated, disappointed, or in disagreement with someone, a part of me really wants to speak up. In fact, I usually have a running mental list of all the ways I want to express my thoughts, voice my disagreement, or say exactly how I’m feeling.

But as soon as I consider actually saying something, I immediately think, “Don’t bother. It’s not worth it. What’s the point?”

“It’s not worth it.” I can’t tell you the number of times that phrase has stifled my voice.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU THINK, “IT’S NOT WORTH IT”

Find out when it is (and isn’t) worth it to speak up, on the blog…

Thinking, “It’s not worth it,” in the face of conflict is really common and normal, and it may allow you to avoid a confrontation or uncomfortable conversation … but at what cost?

Just because there’s no fight, heated argument, or awkward exchange doesn’t mean the emotions magically melt away.

In fact, living with unexpressed emotions (especially anger and hurt) can be way more toxic in the long run. Unexpressed emotions quickly turn into …

  • Resentment
  • Passive aggressiveness
  • Distancing
  • Isolation
  • Self-righteousness
  • Nit-picking
  • Hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Criticism
  • Gossiping

Harboring those kind of emotions is like living with a constant low-grade fever that slowly drains away your energy and your natural positivity … until eventually you hardly recognize this new overly critical, touchy, anxious, resentful version of you.

In the past few years, it’s become abundantly clear to me that speaking up in the moment, even if it’s vulnerable and uncomfortable, is SO worth it to live a life without resentment.

SAY WHAT YOU NEED TO SAY (WHAT UP, JOHN MAYER?)

I’ll be the first to tell you how surprised I’ve been these past years to learn that speaking up, defending myself, disagreeing with someone, and actually engaging in confrontation instead of shying away from it … well, as it turns out, it’s actually a massive relief!

All of the things I was so scared of — everything that made speaking up feel “not worth it” — never happened. It hasn’t ruined any friendships, cost me any great opportunities, or made my body implode from the physical discomfort (although it’s certainly felt that way sometimes).

In fact, engaging in confrontation has done the exact opposite of what I thought it would do — is has vastly improved my relationships. Being honest about how I feel in the moment has opened up a depth of connection that I’d never fully experienced before. And the resentment? It’s all but gone.

Besides, even if those consequences that I’d been so scared of had happened, I’m realizing something else … something much more profound:

Expressing myself is always worth it.

I don’t need any other reason than that to speak up: Self-expression is the ultimate payoff, and it’s more than worth it.

twitter-bird Speaking up = being true to yourself. And that is ALWAYS worth it.

IT IS WORTH IT

Some of you may be reading this right now thinking:

“Why is this such a big deal for you? I’ve never had trouble speaking up and engaging in a fight. In fact, it’s usually other people who are telling me ‘It’s not worth it’ because I speak up about every little thing I’m feeling!”

First of all, I have mad respect for you. I’ve always had tons of admiration for people who find it easy and natural to speak their mind in any circumstance.

But I also want to clarify one major point: This isn’t about voicing every thought or emotion you have, and it’s also not about engaging in every argument just for the sake of it.

This is about speaking up when it really does matter to you — we’re talking about a healthy balance here. So how can you tell when it is, in fact, worth it for you to speak up?

Of course, you know for yourself (better than anyone else can ever know for you) when you really need to say something, but …

Here are a few instances where I know for sure that it’s worth it for you to speak up:

  • When whatever it is that triggered you is chafing up against a value of yours, like respect, compassion, honesty, equality, etc.
  • When you intuitively know that you’re using “It’s not worth it” as a convenient excuse to stay in your comfort zone.
  • When it’s a recurring issue with a particular person.
  • When you can feel the resentment growing the longer you stay silent.
  • When you really want to speak up, but the prospect of it makes your stomach turn with anxiety.
  • When you feel as though staying silent is being disrespectful of yourself.

So tell me: Have you ever wanted to speak up, but thought, “It’s not worth it”? How would it make you feel to finally speak your mind? Leave a comment to let me know!

Much Love,

Kristen (+ Rachel)

15 Comments // ADD COMMENT

15 comments

  • Jim

    Great article. At my previous job I had been told that, while I had good ideas, the company just wasn’t ready to implement them. I found myself going to meetings and literally writing “No talking” at the top of my notepad as a reminder to not speak out when I disagreed with something. I only talked when addressed directly and pretty much became disengaged.

    Jim

    • Kristen Walker

      Jim – Sounds like you’re a natural innovator and idea generator, and it’s no wonder that it felt so discouraging for you to stifle your ideas and stay quiet. When you feel like you have to stop yourself from speaking up, contributing, and sharing your ideas, you’re bound to feel disengaged and bored. I hope things are different wherever you are now!

  • Andrea

    I love this article! I’m sure it’s going to help me overcome the shyness that doesn’t let me express myself freely.

    • Kristen Walker

      I’m really happy this has inspired you, Andrea! It’s normal if it feels uncomfortable and vulnerable when you first start expressing yourself more openly … but ultimately it will feel like a HUGE relief. 🙂

  • Sherronda

    Thanks for the post! It fits me like my birthday suit! I choose “It’s not worth it” because I don’t know what to say or how to speak-up without angry, hurtful towards the other person. Acknowledging the problem is the beginning…

    • Kristen Walker

      Sherronda — Hearing that anything I wrote “fits someone like their birthday suit” may just be one of the best compliments I’ve gotten! 🙂 Love that phrase.

      You’re absolutely right — figuring out HOW to speak up when you’re feeling hurt or annoyed can be a challenge (and I could write a whole separate post just about that!). Brene Brown gives some really good advice about how to speak up in those uncomfortable moments in this article: http://www.inc.com/ilan-mochari/brene-brown-inbound-shame.html Give it a read!

  • Shanice

    I really agree with this subject. My grandfather has always been the verbal abusive one one to misinterpret everything i say. Sometimes i want to speak up but i think what’s the point? he probably will misinterpret me again. But maybe i gotta be brave and speak out. Thanks 🙂

    • Kristen Walker

      Shanice, it’s especially hard to speak up when you’ve had experienced with someone who’s verbally abusive. It’s no wonder you’ve adopted the mentality, “It’s not worth it,” especially with him. Remember that your job isn’t necessarily to make everyone around you understand and agree with everything you share (because that’s an impossible task!). When you speak up, you may not always get the response you want from the other person. But not speaking up at all usually feels worse in the end than sometimes being misunderstood.

  • Stacey

    I think another reason people don’t speak up (me included) is the fear of “what will people think” or “what if I’m wrong…” It’s being willing to take that risk and know that it’s worth it.

    • Kristen Walker

      You make a really great point, Stacey, and I know that plenty of people can relate to those reasons for staying silent. The thing about speaking up is that people WILL have their own opinions and contradictions, and they may not always agree with you. That’s just true. But when you start to feel more solid in yourself, your values, and your beliefs, other people’s opinions don’t seem to affect you quite as much. (Easier said than done, I know! That’s a huge part of what we work through with our coaching clients.)

  • Kammea

    I almost didn’t reply, because the same voice told me it wasn’t worth it. I had to disagree with that voice today, because this article really did make me happy, and it deserved another positive comment. Thank you so much for writing this I appreciate it.

    • Kristen Walker

      Kammea, I’m so glad that you DID decide to reply. You got to prove to that little voice that it IS worth it to speak up! It means a lot to me that you overpowered that small fearful voice in order to share how happy this blog made you. You’ve made me happy in return! 🙂

  • Elise

    There’s much truth to this #claritygem! The feeling of leaving pressing things unsaid because you’re afraid of the results is unpleasant at best and suffocating at worst. That being said, what about the post-speaking up internal fall out? Say you do assert yourself, and the ensuing conversation/situation takes a turn southward leading to a result you aren’t sure how to process… what then? Often times I’ll speak up in a situation that bothered me, then wonder if it was worth it afterwards. Thoughts?

    • Kristen Walker

      Elise — You’ve hit on one of the biggest fears of all when it comes to speaking up — the fear of the fall-out afterward. When you start speaking up more often, it shifts the dynamic in certain relationships. If someone is used to “calling the shots,” and you start speaking up to assert your opinion or disagreement more often, then it changes the relationship balance, and there are bound to be after-effects.

      When it’s a healthy relationship to start with, the “fall out” may be uncomfortable, but temporary — eventually the other person will adjust to the new dynamic, and things will balance back out. In that case, your job is just to stick to your truth and trust that this is temporary. But in some relationships, the other person won’t be able to deal with the new, more authentic and outspoken you, and the fall out may be permanent. I know it sucks to hear that, but those are the relationships that wouldn’t have lasted long-term anyway.

      Hope that helps!

  • Clarity on Fire

    […] Speak up more, even when you think it’s not worth it. […]