How do you get the right balance between speaking out for yourself, and being open to what others say?
I have a tendency to be far too open to the opinions of my friends, too sensitive, too willing to take them seriously regardless of whether they make sense or are fair. I forget that people have their own reasons for saying what they do, and often these reasons have nothing to do with me. Sometimes I’m so busy contemplating what others have said that I ignore what I’m thinking or feeling.
It leaves me very vulnerable to the opinions of the people I trust. I often get to a point where I trust their opinions far more than my own, which is unhealthy. This sort of trust led to be me being deeply hurt by the things my ex said as he was falling apart. Because I believed him when he was describing my weaknesses, to the extent that those weaknesses became real where they didn’t exist, or worse where they did exist. Believed him when he said that my fears were all from my side, had no basis in reality and that I shouldn’t expect him to help me deal with them. Believed him when his “energy readings” were giving him completely misleading perceptions of me and my intentions.
Of course it eventually did become clear to me that his perceptions of me were deeply influenced by his own turmoil. But why did it take me so long to see this? And when I did challenge his views, why did I do it so mildly and quietly, rather than fighting back to defend myself?
To some extent there’s always a degree of fear in speaking up for yourself. But it’s more than that. Why do I not trust my instinctive and emotional reactions? Why am I so afraid of getting angry with people? Why am I so reluctant to challenge other people’s views of me and things important to me? Partly because I have very little experience of doing so successfully. Partly because I genuinely don’t like to hurt others. Partly because I like to find compromises, intellectual truces where we can all be right.
But I know that I have changed. I’ve seen what happens when you don’t listen to yourself, when you allow yourself to make one compromise too many. I’ve realised that this is a way of shielding your own beliefs from arguments that might change your mind. I still prefer to speak with a voice that is gentle, and the rhetoric of snark is very foreign to me. But I am learning to be firm. To insist. To question. To demand. To respect others by disagreeing with them, rather than by tolerating them. To speak out as well as listen.