A Habit of Not Speaking Up

black and white black and white depressed depression

Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com


I’m lying on a yoga mat, relieved to finally catch a moment of stillness after a hectic week of travels, family reunion, and childcare, when the title of today’s post pops into my head:

‘A habit of not speaking up.’

It’s to do with a brief encounter a few days earlier, something that’s been bothering me ever since. As I lay still, I notice resistance surfacing. No, I can’t share that story because…. A string of objections comes up and I mentally wave at them like they are annoying flies. My stillness is gone and all I have left is that old habit of not speaking up.

It’s not a particularly dramatic story either. We were away in Turkey for a couple of days to meet my family (much easier than having them travel to England because of cost and visas). On the last day, we went to visit a waterfall not far from where we stayed. As I strolled with my husband and the kids down a humid narrow cave to view the waterfall from behind, a group of men was walking towards us. Excited, my son had his back towards them and blocked the path for a minute or two. I tried to move him, but he was too keen to tell me something first.

When one of the men swore at him in Turkish, I felt a jolt. OK, coming from a similar cultural background, I know people use that swear word in almost ‘affectionate’ way. Still, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a swear word.

What did I do?


A part of me wanted to speak up and say, hey, that wasn’t necessary. I’m pretty sure he assumed none of us understood him. Mind you, I was in shorts next to my very British looking husband with my son speaking English.

But something in that encounter has been nagging me. It’s that old habit of not speaking up, even when someone offends my nearest and dearest.


Because there were four of them. I was not likely to win this battle. I assumed it would turn into a battle. I was wearing shorts (wow, I could really feel that old fear of judgment based on how I was dressed). The list went on, and to be honest, it wasn’t even fully conscious.

In that moment, I was simply speechless.

It was only later when I caught myself ranting at them in my head, I ‘unpacked’ the situation to find all those old beliefs and fears. Sure, not speaking up might have been the right thing to do in the circumstances, but the point is I didn’t feel I had a choice. I simply froze.

As with any habit, you need to consciously choose to act differently. So, telling this story today is my way of undoing this pattern, in the hope that next time I might act differently and stand up for my son.

But that’s not enough.

What it highlighted for me is that I need to do more healing around feeling safe: safety around men in dark narrow caves, my anticipation of their aggression, fear of judgment if I’m not dressed in accordance with cultural expectations, and even judgment around my choice to marry a foreigner.

Your ‘unhealthy’ behaviour is often a symptom, not a cause. My habit of not speaking up is a symptom of long-held fears. It’s problematic, but it’s not THE problem.

Let’s say, if you are stuck with your creative project, stuck-ness is a symptom; there’s something beneath your inability to move forward. Fear of judgment? Fear of criticism? Fear of exposure? It’s nearly always fear of one sort or another, and in my healing work I help you to uncover and heal those fears so that you can move forward with ease.

If you’d like to experience my work, I’m running a free group healing call on Thursday 14 June at 10:30am UK time. Email me (gularav@gmail.com) if you’d like to attend, and I’ll send you call details.

P.S. If you enjoyed this post, consider joining my community over here.
P.P.S. Do you know anyone who could do with reading this post? Please, feel free to share.

10 thoughts on “A Habit of Not Speaking Up

  1. I have been in similar circumstances, Gulara, where the shock of the situation left me unresponsive. I’m not sure that it was fear, but more uncertainty about how to respond and yes, perhaps fear of whether I could sound calm if I responded. However, I wasn’t unresponsive in all situations. I did stand up in some. I think it great to share experiences such as these. It helps each of us ‘unpack’ and prepare for the next encounter. I wish you well with your healing talks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for reading, and your comment, Norah. I too spoke up on some occasions. I remember walking in a park and noticing young boys being cruel to dogs. I spoke up and my friend was very impressed by my courage. He reminded me of that walk recently. But it was in England and I was walking with a man; I can’t say for sure, but may be that gave me courage…. At any rate, I’m finding this exploration useful for myself, and I’m glad you find it helpful too. Thank you for your good wishes for my talks.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Boy, what a unique situation. As an American or an English person, I would not have understood what the men were saying. If I had understood, I probably would not have said anything, because I frankly would think the men were being purely very rude. In my mind, you don’t talk like that to children. However, it would not change their mindset, and I’m betting they would not have apologized .for their rudeness. So, what would have been the benefit of arguing with them? As an American, we all have different cultures and ways of doing things. We may not agree, but it does not make either of us right or wrong… just different. I think your reaction is due to your knowledge of the culture and it brought back past memories. I agree with you in that in the past I have not been good at speaking up… but I will stick with speaking up against people of my culture and not foreigners… unless they are on MY territory, and not vice versa. I totally understand your dilemma, but don’t beat up on yourself. I think you were appropriate UNLIKE the men that cursed at a small child. THEY need to learn manners, but I doubt that would happen due to their culture. I’m sending you BIG HUGS!!! You did GOOD!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for reading and your heartfelt comment, Gwynn. Yes, it felt a tricky situation and who knows how they might have responded. But I’d love to come to a point where I have a choice to speak or not to speak, rather just freeze and then tell them off in my head 🙂 I hope you are well. Thank you so much for stopping by. Big hug.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi dear Gulara,
    Will send in the requested information today 😉
    Do you still have open spots? In that case I will share this post later today.
    Big hug, looking forward to June 14! XxX

    Liked by 1 person

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