Do you ever feel a little invisible? Like people see you, but they don't really know you. They don't understand you. No one really "gets" what you are saying, and this may make you feel a little isolated or unable to connect. They don't hear you, which means they've probably never felt what you're feeling... and if that's the case maybe you shouldn't even be feeling it. Maybe there is something "wrong" with you. So, maybe you shouldn't even try, because the more you try, the more "flawed" people will see that you are. Maybe you know what you want, but you don't communicate it because you're not sure you're entitled to want it. Maybe you think it makes you less to need anything at all. Maybe you're afraid to express your needs out of an expectancy that they won't be met. Keep reading, this is for you.
Communication and self-esteem are directly related. There is a cycle, and it doesn't matter where that cycle starts, the relationship is clear. When we perceive a difference between what we are and what we think we "should" be, we hide the true self in an attempt to fit that expectation. When we believe that we are somehow "not enough", we assume that others are not going to accept and love us as we are. With this assumption comes a natural self-censorship, an attempt to be "more" or different than we think we are. We do not fully express ourselves because we do not believe that expression will be accepted. We doubt it's validity. We doubt the value of anything we have to say. We hide our true thoughts and needs and feelings, instead trying to conform to what we think those other people expect of us. And with this practice, comes a subconscious recognition that no one really loves us, because they don't know who we are! We haven't given them a chance to know and accept us! They just love this modified version we've decided to hide behind! This leads to a feeling of isolation and an inability to form deep bonds. Then when stress arises, we feel alone in facing it, and of course we get overwhelmed by it, feeling like we can't handle it alone, which in turn reinforces that belief that we are just "not enough"!
How do we fix this? We learn to put out a true full expression in a way that can be received. And I know that's easier said than done. It's not always so simple to just be ourselves. But I promise you that by focusing on these steps for communication, with each effective communication, the easier it will become! We learn to communicate authentically. We take responsibility for how we present ourselves, for how much of ourselves we allow to be known, and what potential for love and acceptance we really give ourselves in the first place. We communicate our thoughts, our feelings, our needs in a way that allows us to feel loved in the way we need to be loved. We communicate in a way that allows us to feel seen and heard! This deepens our bonds and boosts our resiliency to any kind of stress in life! It will improve our relationships. It will improve our ability to dream and our confidence in goal-setting. It will improve our mood. It will improve our focus and our problem-solving skills. It will improve all areas of our life! Communication is the easiest part of this cycle to look at objectively and influence in a way that supports this process, giving rise to new more empowering thoughts. And I am going to give you the steps to do just that!
How did I discover these steps? These are steps that I have used in my own life to improve my communication and build my self esteem after realizing how it was blocking my own connections and my own happiness. I recognized this cycle in my life about 12 years ago after the death of my fiancé. He was the first person in my life whom I ever actually believed loved me, but after his death - in the midst of my grief - I started to doubt that. I realized that the reason I was doubting it was because even though I had gotten better with my expression and had gained a little bit of confidence through that relationship, I still had not authentically expressed myself. Even with the man I regarded as the love of my life and intended to spend the rest of my life with, I had guarded my expression… and it created this doubt because if I had not allowed him to know who I was, how could he have really loved me? I became aware that this underlying doubt existed in all of my relationships throughout my life. I realized that I had always felt alone and not good enough and like no one understood or loved me, because I had never given them the opportunity to know who I was. I realized that maybe I didn’t even really know, because so much of life had been focused on meeting everyone else's expectations that I had kind of gotten lost in there. I never wanted to feel that way again. I wanted to feel connected. I wanted to feel loved. I wanted to feel loved just as I was… and I knew that in order to feel that way I would have to start being just as I was and learning to communicate that. I would have to start expressing myself authentically in a way that other people could receive, and so I began. Now I am sharing with you, so that you can too!
Start with these 7 Steps, and watch as your sense of connection deepens, your sense of worth blooms, your resiliency strengthens, and your experience of life is transformed!
1.CONSIDER YOUR AUDIENCE
Yes, you are going to say all of what you need or want to say, but in order for this to work, it has to be received. So think about who you are talking to, and say it in a way that they are more likely to accept. Don't adjust the message, but do consider the presentation. In order to avoid blaming or offending, it is generally better to focus on how you are feeling and begin your sentences with I… I feel… I think… I believe… Don’t say to your significant other whom you know is always on the defensive, "When you didn’t do that, this other horrible thing happened and now look at the mess we’re in." Say, "I feel that we could have avoided this situation had we tried this… maybe next time we could do it that way?" You’ve expressed your needs and they are more likely to be heard this way.
2.BE CLEAR ABOUT WHAT YOU NEED OR WANT TO GET
If you are looking for advice, say that. If you are just looking for an ear so you can get something out, say that. If you need to understand the other person say, “I'm hoping you can clarify this for me, or I need to know how you feel about…" If you need to come to a mutual agreement say, "We need to work on this" or "I'm asking for your input on this..." If you need them to do something say, "If you could find a way to do this... I would be grateful as it would help me in this way... and that would benefit both of us in this way."
3.VOICE YOUR DOUBTS
When you have doubts, and I’m sure you will, as they don’t go away overnight, don’t let that stop you from saying something. Simply put the doubt out there. If you have a feeling and you’re not sure where it’s coming from, say that. Say, "I’m not sure where this is coming from, but I feel like…" and say how you feel, and let the other person help you to clarify it.
4.DON’T ASSUME; ASK!
If you think someone else is angry with you or you think that you’ve let someone down… ask them. If you think that someone else has any kind of negative perception of you, you want to make sure that you are not assigning that perception for them. Ask them. And talk with them to sort it out once you know. And if you are hurt by what the other person said, don’t assume that you understood what they meant. Ask for clarification. Once you start talking about it, you can likely reach a mutual understanding to alleviate the problem.
5.STAY CALM. LISTEN. COME TO A MUTUAL AGREEMENT.
Stay calm and don’t argue or retreat. Stay in the conversation until you feel you have been heard and until you have also listened. Don’t be in any conversation to win. That’s not the point. The point is to come to a mutual understanding, which means that you have to express what you need, and then listen to the others person's needs as well. Whenever possible, be willing to meet somewhere that serves both of you. Everybody wins.
6.MAKE EMPATHETIC GUESSES.
Make some empathetic guesses to come to a deeper understanding. If you don’t completely understand at first, don’t be afraid to ask questions. And if you’re unclear on what the other person is expressing say something like, “So it sounds like you are feeling this way” or “I imagine that experience felt this way for you, did it?” And again, listen to the answer.
7.BE VULNERABLE AND OPEN.
Most importantly, be vulnerable. And don’t be afraid to admit when you think you’ve made a mistake. Even with your children, you can be open and you can apologize. Ask my son; I've done my share! You can ask anyone what they need from you to strengthen the relationship. Whether at work, at home with your partners, or with your kids, you can always say, how can I do better next time? It does not undermine your authority. If anything, it strengthens it. Do not project your own self-judgments and criticisms onto other people. Be open and be honest. Again, do not assume that another person is not going to accept you as you are. The truth of the matter is, you will never be accepted as you are until you accept you enough to put yourself out there! Be willing to show your perceived weaknesses and allow other people the opportunity to love you because you’re you… just as you are.
As you follow these guidelines to improve your communication, your bonds are going to be strengthened. You are going to feel more supported and more connected. All of these things are going to directly feed into your sense of self-worth. And you do not have to know exactly who you are to start expressing yourself. I didn’t. I just started expressing myself as I was in the moment and you know what? I began to learn more about myself, and I became further through that process. Focus on one step at a time. Dive in all at once. The choice is yours! Any way that you do it, bringing awareness to how you are communicating has the power to completely reverse the negative thought pattern that is keeping you where you are. With each successful communication, you will recognize: “Yes, I am loved.” “Yes, I am supported.” “Yes, I CAN handle this.” “Yes, I AM ENOUGH!” You will build your worth, you will build your bonds, and you will build the ease with which you can express yourself in the world.