Health

How To Express Your Needs When You Don't Like Speaking Up For Yourself

By Hannah Leah
·  6 min read
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Maybe you’re the peacemaker, the perfectionist, or the introvert who doesn’t like to cause a scene, but sometimes you just need to bite the bullet and speak up for yourself.

Some of us have a very hard time expressing our needs, especially if it means having to speak up and stir the pot a little bit. In most situations, I'm the peacemaker. I don’t mind putting the needs of others before myself, especially if it keeps everyone else happy. Plus I’m introverted, so anything that creates unwanted attention is what I avoid. But there are times when we all have to put aside our reservations, and just speak up. 

The Importance of Speaking Up

You can’t function in life if you let everyone walk all over you. It’s okay to put others first and to avoid unnecessary confrontation, but there are situations that may require you to stand up for something or to express your needs. You might feel like no one cares about your opinions or needs, but if you suppress your feelings all the time, then you aren’t giving people a chance to support you.

If you find it hard to speak up for yourself, there could be a few possible explanations. 

Personality

Like I previously mentioned, introverts, anti-confrontational people, and even perfectionists have issues speaking up because it might mean unwanted attention, disputes with others, the risk of vulnerability, or stirring the pot. But speaking up will make your life less draining, will help others respect you more, and help you set boundaries with others.

Social Acceptance

Feeling like you have to choose between being accepted by others and what your needs are can be distressing. If you think standing up for yourself will result in losing your peers’ approval or cause others to judge you, then you are less likely to do it. 

Past Experiences

Maybe something that happened in your past, or even during your childhood, created trauma that makes it difficult for you to express your needs. If you were ever abused as a child or ridiculed for speaking up, then there is a lot of fear, even as an adult, to do it. Finding the root of some of these issues can help you overcome them and make it easier to advocate for yourself. 

Consequences

If standing up for yourself will potentially contradict another person, you might be afraid to do it. Especially for those of us who don’t typically speak up, then there is a fear that doing it will cause uncomfortable repercussions. 

Speaking up will make your life less draining and help others to respect you more.

As someone who deals with many of these same issues, I can tell you it’s still worth learning to advocate for yourself. For example, in the beginning of my cosmetology career, I was giving discounts on all services. This was necessary for building a clientele, as I had little experience and needed a way to get more clients. After a couple years under my belt though, I was much busier and more established, but my prices were still super low. My boss told me it was time to raise my prices and to notify my clients about it. 

Telling people you’re charging them more money is scary, especially when my clients were used to paying half the normal price. There is always the risk that they will leave you or argue with you about it. But was I going to charge half price my entire life because I was scared to say something? I finally told them, and the vast majority were completely fine with it. Only a very small number of clients complained or left me over it. And to be honest, the price raise weeded out some clients I didn't enjoy working with anyways. Looking back, I wish I had done it sooner.

Tips for Expressing Your Needs When You Hate Speaking Up

No matter why it is that you would rather stay quiet than speak up, sometimes you have to do it. Here are some things to help you if you’re worrying about having to speak up for yourself. 

  • Don’t worry about your social standing if what you have to say is more important. If you lose a friend over expressing your needs, maybe they weren’t the kind of friend you want in your life anyway. 

  • Practice what you want to say. Before speaking up, rehearse what you want to say in the mirror or to another friend. This will make you more clear and confident when it's time to speak up. 

  • Don't let people take advantage of you. What you allow will only continue. If you’re an easy person to take advantage of, people will do it. Set boundaries with others and raise your standards. Remember: this doesn’t make you selfish.

  • Be clear with your words and don't over explain. We all tend to sugarcoat things that make us uncomfortable or potentially cause problems. But if you already have issues speaking up, then be concise the first time, so you don’t have to do it again. Don’t feel the need to over-explain. You don’t always owe people a long explanation. 

  • Control your emotions. This is sometimes hard to do, but keeping calm and collected is important when expressing yourself. If you tend to cry when speaking up for yourself, practicing beforehand will certainly help with that. You will be heard more if you control your emotions. 

  • Consider your alternatives. Think about what’s worse: speaking up in the moment and undergoing some temporary discomfort but achieving a resolution, or not speaking up and continuing to be unhappy and perhaps even resentful for the foreseeable future? In most cases, some short-term pain now will lead to better long-term results.

Closing Thoughts

Sometimes you have to be your own advocate. If speaking up for yourself feels hard for you, try to find the root of your fears and work through them. It might just be that you are scared of the reaction or don’t want to disrupt your social standing. But let others in on the things you need; people who care about you want to know how you feel and how they can support you. Don’t let others take advantage of you, and be clear when speaking up to them. You can still be a peacemaker and express your needs to others. 

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