In a yoga-inspired course on the chakras, teacher Davidji said of the fourth, or throat, chakra:
“Throughout the day when you find yourself making compromises out of fear, out of playing small, out of not believing in yourself, remind yourself that the vibration ‘hum’ is the vibration of permission. Whether you say it silently or you chant it out loud, it will always be a reminder that you give yourself permission to always be your best version, to undim your light, to allow your voice to be heard.”
He’s right. Giving yourself permission to speak your truth as much as possible, with delicacy and tact, allows you and your relationships to flourish.
Many people think the path to relationship peace is through compromising. While flexibility and openness are a balm to any relationship, over-compromising easily leads to resentment. Not sharing your deepest wishes, whether related to huge life choices or where to go to dinner, makes it unlikely your relationship will go forward in any honest and, ultimately, life-enhancing way.
Once again, the notion of short term versus long-term hedonism is at work. If you’re a short-term hedonist you choose momentary pleasure that often results in long-term discomfort or pain. When you’re a long-term hedonist you sacrifice the short-term joy for the long-term gain. Whenever you choose to compromise rather than cooperate, and work through different points of view, you’re taking the short-term hedonistic path. You’re sacrificing the long-term goal of allowing somebody to truly get to know what you want so you can avoid the discomfort of disagreement in the moment.
There’s no reason to assume that sharing what you want will always lead to conflict. Learning to skillfully speak for yourself using “I” statements, without putting down someone else’s preferences, allows the other person to clearly hear your wishes and not get defensive.
In the beginning, learning how to stop acquiescing to what other people want, can feel almost impossible, but it gets easier with practice. In time, it can even become your default. If you developed a habit of being passive-aggressive because you didn’t learn how to be assertive, speaking your truth enables you to flex some emotional muscle while feeling more authentically you.
If you think that asking for what you want is going to destroy a relationship, perhaps that relationship is not enhancing your life.
In time, you will gradually ease into speaking up for yourself more assertively. Assertiveness is never aggressiveness. Assertiveness is just asking for what you want. It’s not treading on someone else’s toes or asking them to want something different; but, it can lead to disappointing people. Disappointing people is a part of life. They will disappoint you and you will disappoint them. It’s natural and normal. Coming to terms with it and accepting it as part of the human condition, creates more inner peace and better relationships. That naturally happens when you choose to change your expectations. There’s nothing more disturbing than expecting something unrealistic from someone and having them continually disappoint you. By expecting what experience has shown you you’re likely to get, you’ll be less disappointed.
If you’re female, society has trained you to serve others. Being agreeable is one of the ways women tend to others and learn to feel good about themselves. Of course, men who want to appear flexible, relaxed, and play well with others, also repress their true desires. The payoff is not just the short term benefit of pleasing others, but the bigger ego boost you get from feeling like a good, kind and emotionally generous person.
One of the five regrets of the dying is: “I wish I had done what I wanted to rather than what other people wanted me to.” If you notice that you have a habit of giving people what they want, rather than giving yourself what you want, and frustration and resentment have become all too familiar, start with something small. The example of choosing what for dinner in the earlier piece on this site called “Compromise or Cooperate?” is a good place to start.
If you’re wondering whether you’re acquiescing to someone else’s desires, because it has become such a habit, try to notice resentment when it first appears. Tune into your physical feelings. Where do you feel resentment in your body? See if you can investigate physical sensations to catch resentment before it becomes overwhelming. Resentment is a clue that you’re not setting good boundaries or not asking for what you want. (The piece on this site called “Your Body Is A Portal” offers ways to work with, and learn from, bodily sensations.)
As difficult as it is to change something that feels as if it’s a fundamental part of your personality, it is possible. People do it all the time and they benefit in ways they couldn’t ever imagine. Relationships get stronger; and, more importantly, your relationship with yourself becomes more authentic and satisfying.
Copyright Nicole S. Urdang