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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.)
I know it does for me.
As a recovering people-pleaser, 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”
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 …
- Passive aggressiveness
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.
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!
Kristen (& Rachel)
GET ON THE VIP LIST FOR OUR NEW PEOPLE PLEASING COURSE!
Getting Over People Pleasing will be open for enrollment on Tuesday, August 20th!
- This course will NOT be available 24/7. Right now, consider it a one-time thing. We may end up offering it again at some point, but likely not for another year.
- It will last for about 4 weeks, and during that time you’ll get weekly video lessons and workbook prompts.
- There will be a forum so that you, and the other members of the group, can ask us questions and share your stories.
- This course is for people who want to bridge the gap between knowing what they should be doing, and actually doing it.
- Consider this course a fun-yet-challenging boot camp of sorts! We’re going to help you heal some old wounds that keep you trapped in the need to please and get desensitized to the discomfort of things like setting boundaries, saying no, and speaking up for yourself.
- This course will be action-oriented. Yes, there will be some teaching, but everything we teach is going to be actionable. And we’re going to hold you accountable for taking that action!
- By the end, we know you’ll feel a LOT freer, calmer, more confident, and resilient.
If you haven’t joined our VIP list yet, please do! There will be goodies for people who are on that list when we launch the course.
IF YOU LIKED THIS EPISODE, THEN YOU’LL ALSO LOVE…
Side Chat: The 3 types of people-pleasers (& why you might unknowingly be one)
A best friend’s roundtable on people pleasing with Stacy Campesi & Joanna Platt
Dear Krachel: How do I say no without people hating me?
Submit your question for a future episode of Dear Krachel
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 – 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!
I love this article! I’m sure it’s going to help me overcome the shyness that doesn’t let me express myself freely.
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. 🙂
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…
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!
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 🙂
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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! 🙂
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?
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!
Oh boy, speaking up is SO hard for me, especially in the moment. I feel like I need time to formulate my argument and it seems like the person either needs or wants an answer immediately. Also, I have experienced enough times where I’ve spoken up and I haven’t really been heard that I think that’s where my “why bother” comes from.
I totally get this, Sarah! It sounds like you might be an internal processor (I am too, so I recognize one of my own! 😉 ), which just means you might need to ask for more time to process/think about things before you respond.
Also, keep in mind that it’s perfectly OK to speak up after-the-fact! You can say, “I didn’t appreciate the way you talked to me the other day” or “I’ve thought about what you said, and I have a different opinion,” even if it feels the the moment has passed. And it’s true that not everyone will appreciate you speaking up, but remember that you’re doing it more for yourself than to get a certain response from someone else. (Easier said than done, I know!)
Glad you related to this post, and I hope it inspired you to try speaking up more often, even in small ways!
Hi, great article and something I go through a lot. What if i speak up to a friend/spouse who every time I disagree with something to do with us she just keeps behaving the same way over and over again even though she acknowledges that what she does isn’t right. What do you do then? You just say it’s not worth it.
It makes total sense that if you’ve tried speaking up over and over again and nothing changes, that you’d just think, “It’s not worth it.” It’s exhausting to feel like a broken record! Not sure if this is you or not, but for a lot of people-pleasers, they’ll set a boundary with someone … but then not enforce it. (I’m guilty of this!) So whenever you speak up and set a boundary with someone, there have to be consequences when they ignore or overstep your boundary.
I also have to say, if there’s someone in your life who continually ignores your needs and constantly oversteps your boundaries, you *might* be dealing with an energy vampire — in which case, you might do well to keep your distance.
I literally never speak to anyone. I have lots of ideas and opinions but invariably they are very different from what most other people think. I did not grow up in North America, so my background for context is very different from that of people here. I am also an intensely introverted person so engaging with others is exhausting as it is. I live alone and have never had any sort of relationship or even gone on a date – there’s no point in asking any woman out because the answer would always be no at best – there is no evidence to the contrary.
Hi Paul, I feel compelled to share this previous episode of the podcast with you. It feels like it might challenge, in a good way, some of your fears. 🙂 https://clarityonfire.com/insecurity-amin-lakhani/
I have always let ppl talk about me and stab me in the back without confrontation and it’s been my so called friend who is doing this and I am really tired of this and I should be able to stand up for myself and not let nobody hurt me or let them get away with it
Hi, this article really goes for me I usually don’t speak sometime because of pronounsation my way of speaking is very poor so
I used to speak up all the time. I grew up in a house full of boys, so speaking up with friends or in class was a way of life and not a problem for me. . . until it was.
After college (late 1980s), I went to work in Corporate America (think pumps, pantyhose, and blue suit). In meetings, I spoke up, asked questions, and voiced my opinion.
About 6 weeks in, my boss pulled me aside and told me I was too blunt and not adapting to the ‘ABC Company way’. Girl gets hungry so I adapted to keep drawing a paycheck.
Slowly, I cared more and more about how I thought people would react to what I said versus being true to me. I became silent and small.
Fast forward 33 years from that fateful conversation and I feel I have lost my spark. I am tired of being silent. I am ready to reacquaint myself with who I really am. Thank you for this blog- it put words to what I am feeling. Ever forward. . .
So happy to hear that you’re ready to get that spark back, Jane! ✨
I heard a conversation at Hobby Lobby. it was a mom and some man (I HOPE not the dad). They were discussing the daughter’s bad behavior and how she’s acting up. They made fun of and openly talked about her sexual abuse and how that doesn’t excuse her behavior. I’ve dealt with sexual abuse.. And being blamed for it. It made my blood boil with anger hearing them just joke and talk about her so poorly. Even if she is acting out, she needs someone to talk to- seriously. If your own family doesn’t even acknowledge your traumas, what the h3ll? I told myself it wasn’t worth it because I didn’t know them. I didn’t know the story, but it bothers me to this day I stayed silent. I hope the girl is okay.
Omg Morgan, my blood would have been boiling, too! It makes me think, “What must have happened to those people, that their reaction to someone’s trauma is to make fun of it or diminish it?” They’re probably afraid to legitimize her trauma (and her understandable behavioral issues as a result) because in doing so, they’d have to face their own traumas and demons. I hope she’s OK, too! 💞
This article makes me feel so seen. There have been so many occasions where I wish I’d spoken up or even just said more then I did at the time (one time I made a sarcastic comment like “thanks” in response to an insult but didn’t actually say seriously that it upset me).
I have also got countless examples where friends have upset me/disappointed me and I don’t say anything for fear of creating an awkward atmosphere/ argument/ and it breeds so much resentment and definitely isolation as you isolate yourself from those people.
The fear of speaking up is so high within me I think I’d struggle to start doing it. Mostly with family and close friends, less so with work.
I also just don’t know where to start
I’m really glad this made you feel seen, Emma. Speaking up can feel REALLY scary in the moment, so it’s totally understandable that it’s been so hard for you. I would suggest starting really small, with people who feel most safe. For example, you said it would feel LESS difficult to speak up more at work, so that’s a great place to start. As you build up you comfort level, little by little, then you can start speaking up in situations that feel a bit scarier. Think of this like developing an under-used muscle — you have to start with the smallest weights before you can start lifting the bigger weights. Take it slow, and give yourself credit every single time you speak up, even in the smaller moments. It might be a longer process than you’d like, but it’s absolutely worth it!