What is Self-Silencing? – Stop Self-Silencing EP #3

By Fifi Mason

Ever found yourself staying silent and not sharing your views all because you don’t want to rock the boat?

Self-silencing is when we hold back from sharing our thoughts, ideas, opinions, and perspectives, because we fear the potential consequences.

It’s a self-imposed barrier that prevents us from speaking out and sharing who we are with the world.

How this shows up and what it looks like can be different for everyone. As you go through this podcast series you’ll learn all the ways it could be affecting you.

But first, let me illustrate the impact this could have on you as a coach, impact maker and business owner.

What is the Impact of Self-Silencing?

Imagine that you’re driving down the road of success, only to find it blocked by an invisible wall.

You can see what’s on the other side, opportunities, connections, and the life you’ve always dreamed of.

But something’s stopping you from getting there. I call this “The Wall of Discomfort“.

I hit this wall myself.

It caused me to hide away, only sharing bland, generic content on social media, and deliberately avoiding the spotlight.

And, what did that get me? Clients who were all kinds of wrong.

I remember one client in particular who left me in tears. I bent over backwards to please her, but it was never enough.

All this heartache and stress, because I wasn’t showing up as my authentic self.

It meant I wasn’t connecting with those who would value my worth and who were on the same page as me. Who I got along with, enjoyed being around and who had the same values.

This impacted the relationship I built with these clients, the trust they had in me and most of all it made it challenging to work with them.

Ultimately it sucked the joy out of my work and made me question what I was doing and if I should just throw in the towel.

These are just a few ways self-silencing could be getting in the way of your success, but you’re not only letting yourself down here, you’re also limiting the impact you could make in the lives of those who need you. 

But not all is lost, recognising that you are self-silencing is the first step towards moving past it. So next, let’s learn a little more about what it can feel like.

What Does Self-Silencing Feel Like?

For me it was a mixture of fears and doubts stopping me in my tracks. This sense of foreboding, a deep worry and anxiety in the pit of my stomach.

It caused me to I hide the real me, and adopted a professional persona.

I mean, I even stopped colouring my hair in bright shades, all because I felt it was unprofessional and people wouldn’t take me seriously.

And the thought of sharing anything personal; my thoughts, ideas or opinions that was downright terrifying.

I didn’t know it back then, but I was self-silencing. I was letting my fears get in the way of me showing my true self.

Firstly, if you feel like this too, I want you to know you’re not alone.

Self-silencing can be a challenge in any stage of life, any stage of business. In fact, each stage can come with different challenges, since we may feel we have more to lose, further to fall or a larger platform to influence.

Secondly, I also want you to know that you CAN move past it.

The first step to breaking through this wall, is recognising that the wall exists. It’s about turning on the headlights and looking deeply at what is holding you back.

It’s also a journey, to learn to trust yourself, know that you have valuable ideas to contribute, that people need to hear them, and to know that if they do hear them that it could help them in some ways.

You might make them smile, you might help them see things differently, you might wake them up to something they didn’t realise about themselves or the world.

So now we know how it can feel and that we aren’t alone in this, you’re probably wondering what causes it?

What Causes Self-Silencing and Why Do We Do It?

Self-silencing often it starts in our past. Some of it is innate in us, from a time of not wanting to be ostracised from our communities. 

Some is how we were raised, societal pressures, or past instances where our voices were diminished or disregarded.

I have a strong memory of one of these instances. I was maybe 6 years old, and I was singing my heart out in the school choir practice. I loved to sing, still do in fact, and was one thing I felt very passionate about in my early years.

I don’t recall exactly what happened that day, but during the session I was told by the choir director to stop singing, while all the other children around me got to carry on.

I didn’t sing for the rest of the session, and just stood there watching quietly with my head down not understanding why.

I remember feeling shame, like I had done something wrong, maybe I was being too loud or wasn’t singing the words correctly. And sadly, because of this one instance I decided to never go back to choir after that.

Perhaps you can you pinpoint a time in your life where you were made to feel that voicing something or being loud was wrong in some way?

It’s because of these things we start to tone down our expressions, behaviours, and learn to say what we think others want to hear. We suppress who we are in order to be accepted.

In today’s digital world, there’s a whole other side to this too.

Yes, we have a huge opportunity to reach people all over the world, but it can be terrifying to stand out in a place that seems to foster judgement and comparison. Where saying one wrong thing (in the eyes of some) could mean you have a horde of mostly anonymous people ready to jump on you for it.

The problem is, we are so worried about fitting in, being liked, that we lose our authentic voice.

So what can we do about this? How do we stop self-silencing? As you continue though this series you’ll learn more about how to recognise self-silencing, and the core reasons you might be holding back. 

But there is one thing we need to accept in order to move forward, and it can take time and practice.

Accept You Won’t Be Liked by Everyone

Showing up as our raw, imperfect, authentic selves is what connects us to those who truly value who we are.

Therefore, we have to accept the fact that not everyone will resonate with our views and our way of thinking.

This doesn’t diminish the value of our thoughts and opinions, and it doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be heard, loudly and proudly.  

It’s okay to not be liked by some people, in fact, it’s better that those who don’t align with you go elsewhere. 

This means you’ll get to work with the clients who bring you the most joy and build a community of people who feel like they belong too!

For more insights, don’t forget to check out my book “Stop Self-Silencing”, and if you want support from me to help you on your visibility journey as an impact maker or coach, join my mini-membership The Visibility Lab, or come have a chat with me!

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