If you normally struggle to speak your mind, what kinds of things motivate you to speak up? What makes your inhibitions go out the window and your truth come pouring out?
If you don’t normally struggle with speaking your mind, what kinds of things cause you to clam up and hold your feelings in?
I’ve spent the last 14 hours or so trying to decide what side of the line this prompt provides I fall on. I think that most people you ask would call me loud, a talker, perhaps even opinionated, and not one to bite my tongue in order to avoid conflict. I think this is pretty accurate when the subject is something abstract and/or unrelated to me personally, when it’s a debate over something that’s happening in the news/pop culture or a 1am discussion in the large library about Some Topic X. I am unafraid to take a position, even if it’s unpopular, and boisterously defend it to the end.
That’s easy. Those things don’t…matter. Debates are fun. I enjoy getting riled up about things.
Talking about the things that do matter doesn’t come as easy to me. There is always a significant level of effort, some gearing myself up involved when it’s time to raise issues that are personal issues to me. But I know that it’s important. I have given up trying to find the post in my archives, but I know that some time after my breakup with KO in 2011, I realized that he and I had more open and honest dialogue after we ended our relationship than we ever had while we were together, which is ironic because from the beginning we established an open and honest policy. Our closure emails felt like the first time we were really talking to one another about how we’d felt from the beginning. That’s not a way to build anything. I told myself then that the next time I was in a relationship, I would endeavor to talk with that person the way I talk with KS.
To this day, every time I tell myself that what I’m feeling is an overreaction that I shouldn’t talk about with [person in question], I think about that feeling I had in ending that relationship and what I said I was going to do. I think about it and recommit myself to openness and honesty. And I freak out, because words are hard and talking about feelings is hard and nothing causes me as much anxiety as my own potential to make the people I care about upset. I cry about it probably loudly enough for my roommates to hear. Sometimes I have “pre-conversations” with other people to flesh my thoughts out and get ready to have the actual conversation. And then I write. I write because I’ve found that I will minimize myself and brush things off, make them seem smaller, when I try to talk about things I’m upset about in person. When I write it out, there is only one moment I have to push myself through the anxiety of — the “send” moment — rather than after every sentence. Recently, though, JJ and I were able to take a conversation I’d started in an email and bring it out of the digital world, to a conversation involving spoken words and cuddles on a couch. #progress
I suppose that all of this is to say that the personal significance of the topic and the medium of my self-expression affect my level of inhibition, as well as the actual and perceived strength of my relationship with the person I’m expressing myself to, and the effect I feel like my words will have. But I’ve been trying really hard for a while now to not let any of those things stop me.