‘Ek chup, sau sukh’ is a saying from my culture, which if you share my Indian heritage you will definitely have heard many times. Loosely translated it means ‘staying quiet (and, I’ll add, compliant) leads to greater ease in life’.
I grew up with this message. I consider it to be one of the gems of wisdom my mother passed onto me; one that has stood me in good stead over the years. There is definitely great merit in being mindful of our responses and being less reactionary. Remaining silent certainly can diffuse an escalating confrontational situation. However, as with all things in life, if this ‘quiet and compliant’ approach is adhered to rigidly and becomes a permanent habit, it risks leading us into a life of misery, despair and even abuse. Here’s why.
Low Self Esteem
The single most destructive effect of not speaking your truth is the impact on your self-esteem. If we go through life:
never saying what we really feel or think;
denigrating our own opinions and preferences; and,
- always agreeing with and fulfilling others’ needs and desires;
then we send a loud and clear message to ourselves that says:
I don’t matter;
my opinions, thoughts and feelings do not count;
other people are more important than I am; and,
- I am not worthy of time, attention or consideration.
Ultimately this leads to an unhealthy and seriously diminished sense of self. Over time we internalise a negative opinion of ourselves to the point where we unconsciously start to believe that we are not worthy of any respect and attention. This erodes our self confidence.
Living Unfulfilled Lives
If we do not express our needs then they simply remain unmet. If we don’t communicate our thoughts and feelings honestly, clearly and openly then how will others know what we want and need? We may think the problem is self-evident but we all live life subjectively. Those around us may interpret the situation and read the signals differently. We need to take responsibility for expressing our views as clearly and honestly as we can.
Furthermore, if we simply comply with everyone else’s wishes then we not only lose touch with our sense of who we truly are, we actually start to live a life that does not even belong to us.
Unhealthy Relationship Boundaries
Passive behaviour not only harms who we believe we are but it also sends out unhealthy messages to significant others in our lives. If we don’t respect ourselves then how can we expect others to respect us? By not acknowledging and respecting our true thoughts, feelings and wishes we send conscious and unconscious messages to others saying ‘I don’t respect myself so you don’t have to respect me either’.
Ironically, passive behaviour can initially be seen as an attempt to get approval and respect from others. We believe that by continually accommodating and complying with others we will gain respect and positive regard. What actually happens is the opposite. When we don’t respect ourselves enough to be honest about our needs and desires, and we don’t speak up and express ourselves appropriately, we give others free reign to, at best, ignore us and at worst, disrespect, control and abuse us.
By repeatedly complying with all requests and demands that come our way we invariably end up taking on too much, which can result in feelings of overwhelm, tension and anxiety. If we do not clearly communicate our limits, thoughts and feelings to others they are none the wiser, and we can soon end up stressed and feeling trapped.
Warped Personality Traits
Our emotions are energy (e) in motion. They need to be felt, acknowledged and be allowed to move through our being in a healthy way. Unacknowledged and unexpressed feelings can build up and stagnate inside, ultimately causing us serious harm.
Unexpressed anger that has been allowed to accumulate over a period of time can, for example, lead to deep resentment. This in turn, left unexpressed, can manifest as passive aggressive behaviour. Have you ever been angry with someone and not been able to tell them only to find that over time your feelings seep out in inappropriate or childish behaviour?
Classic examples of passive aggressive behaviour are:
making snide comments,
verbal shut down,
- obstructive, evasive and/or manipulative behaviour.
Passive aggression is a destructive, emotionally abusive pattern of behaviour that eats away at trust in a relationship and creates intense hurt and pain to all those involved.
Isn’t it easier and more constructive to speak your truth in the first place and not let things escalate to irreparable proportions?
Another far reaching consequence of not speaking our truth calmly, openly and honestly is that we teach our children to keep their thoughts and feelings bottled up as well. Parents are role models for their children. Children learn more from parental behaviour than parental instruction. If as parents we do not demonstrate healthy, balanced, effective communication then we make it difficult for our children to do so. Consequently, we are subjecting them to a life of unfulfilled dreams, misery, poor relationship skills and even control and abuse.
Passive behaviour doesn’t benefit anyone in the long term.
It has far-reaching detrimental effects on the quality of every aspect of our inner and outer lives, and on the lives of those around us. It makes it virtually impossible to lead a happy, fulfilled, purposeful life.
If we don’t honour and communicate our truth to others then not only do we let ourselves down but we do a disservice to others by not giving them a fair chance to help us meet our needs.
We end up devaluing ourselves and resenting others.
As our needs continually remain unmet, it is not long before we conclude that ‘no-one cares’. This further erodes our sense of self and perpetuates the downward spiral that ultimately leads to physical, emotional, mental and spiritual illness.
Ask yourself: can you really afford to not speak your truth?
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