The Hidden Effects of Words Unsaid
Your body and habits may be giving you a subtle nudge about anxiety that hasn't quite surfaced yet.
If you are like me, you may prefer to avoid conflict. Perhaps you'd rather keep things to yourself than ask for help, have a hard conversation, or offer corrective feedback. A few years ago, I had an amazing opportunity to visit Colombia for a friend’s wedding. While there, my 16 year old son and I visited a planetarium. After experiencing a stunning star show, we checked out the gift shop, and I fell in love with this beautiful necklace that appeared to hold the galaxy in its frame. When I opened the box, I realized the one they had given me was nice, but not nearly as bright and colorful as the one on display. I shrugged and started to walk out, but my son stopped me and insisted I should ask for the one on display instead. “Why not get the one you really want? You’re paying for it”! In addition to the logistical difficulty of me figuring out how to ask for it using my broken Spanish, I was reluctant to bother someone over something so small. Borrowing my son’s bravery, I got up the courage, practiced some vocabulary in my head, and walked out with the necklace I loved. Every time I wear it, I think about how we deserve to ask for the things we want in life - and how my son seemed to know it in his bones.
That was a low stakes example, and if I hadn’t spoken up I might have had temporary disappointment, but it probably wouldn’t have lasted. But a year later, I was having trouble sleeping, experiencing stomach aches, and snacking like there was no tomorrow. I didn’t realize it at the time, but these were expressions of the anxiety I was feeling about a difficult conversation I had to have with my partner at the time. Over the years, and through working with a coach of my own, I have been able to notice symptoms or side effects that tell me that I have something that needs to be said. When we have unmet needs, or are being negatively impacted by the behavior of others, and don’t speak up there will always be hidden effects on our emotional, physical, and mental health. There are many ways to move forward from this, but cultivating an awareness within yourself is an important first step. How do you experience this low key thrum of anxiety? How do you feel it in your body? How does it impact your mood? Your eating? Your sleep? Your body has great wisdom to share whenever you can take the time to reflect and listen. I invite you to make a list of the ways you might experience these feelings, even if they haven’t risen to the surface yet.
Some of these unmet needs are bigger than others, and some conversations may feel overwhelming. Sometimes it means making huge changes in our lives that will feel quite disruptive. Other times it may be a conversation that feels like a Big Deal to us, but ends up being something wonderful. I now have a very supportive and loving partner in my life. Recently, we had to have a conversation about money. My thoughts around this were that I’d rather stab myself in the eye with a fork than talk about money. But I did it anyway, and he was completely receptive and had also been wanting to bring it up! Sometimes the people in our lives surprise us, when we are vulnerable enough to share our needs with them. Reflecting later about the conversation, I had the familiar thought that I wished I had done it sooner. All of you Office fans may remember this was perfectly summarized by Pam Beesly, “It took me so long to do so many important things. It's just hard to accept that I spent so many years being less happy than I could have been.” Amen sister! If you’re ready to face some of these hard conversations, know that you don’t have to do it alone. Coaching helped me immensely with this, and we are here to help you!