Fear of speaking your mind: causes, effects, and how to deal with it
Let's see how fear of speaking our minds affects us, and what we can do about it.
What we say and what we think are never the same thing. Although we are free to think whatever we want, we are not so free to say it because social norms and our own understanding of what is okay to say and what is not so okay to say act as a filter, applying self-censorship.
It is true that saying absolutely everything we think can be dangerous, both for us and for the person with whom we are conversing, since there are things said that can be sharper than the sharpest of knives.
However, it is true that our concept of what we should not say is too demanding, preventing us from showing ourselves before others as we really are, it is the fear of speaking your minda fear that we will delve into and see what can be done next.
What is the fear of saying what you think?
What we say and what we think are not the same. Our mind is a place where freedom of opinion prevails, a kind of mental screen on which we project all kinds of thoughts, opinions, feelings, emotions and beliefs about things that happen to us in our daily lives or related to some significant field of our existence. Our mind is free to think whatever it wants, even if they are harmful and toxic thoughts in relation to other people.
However, not everything that is projected in that cinema of our mind comes out to the outside.. What we say and what we think can be compared to an iceberg: the tip, above sea level, is what we say, while the whole psychological process behind it, all our cogitations, is the part that is submerged. And thank goodness it is submerged because, sometimes, there are things that are better to hide.
We all keep quiet about a lot of things we think. We have been brought up in a sociocultural environment in which there is a consensus that not everything can be said, mostly because it can be annoying or even offensive to other people, even if what we have said we think sincerely and innocently. That is why we censor ourselves on more than one occasion, prioritizing preserving our social relationships rather than letting off steam by saying everything we think.
However, this self-censorship can this self-censorship can be so strong, so intense, that it really causes us a lot of discomfort.. This discomfort is caused by fear of speaking your mind, fear of trusting others with thoughts and worldviews that you think could be misinterpreted, be seen as unhelpful information to others, or even fear that others will be offended or consider you a less valid person.
Lack of assertiveness
There may be many causes behind the fear of speaking your mind, being among them the lack of self-esteem and the absence of self-confidence. However, it is probably the lack of assertiveness the most influential factor in the appearance of this peculiar fear, having a very strong relationship. The more assertive one is, in principle, the less fear one has to express oneself freely..
We cannot talk about this skill without mentioning the pioneering work of the American psychologist Andrew Salter, who is credited with having described what assertiveness is in the 1940s and 1960s. Salter understood it as the ability to express one's opinions and personal desires, that is, to make known what one feels and thinks, but it also implies defending one's rights in a respectful, honest and sincere manner.
According to what he observed in his research, Salter concluded that practically everyone could be assertive, but what really happens is that we do not manifest this ability in all situations.. This implies that, in addition to having some natural ability to be assertive, those people who have rather little can put it into practice, even if they are very shy and introverted. There is always the possibility of perfecting our communication and social skills.
Why do we feel afraid to speak our minds? Frequent causes
There are several explanations behind the fear of speaking our minds. Among the most common we can highlight the following:
Fear of rejection 2.
Many times we keep quiet about things for fear of social rejection. This type of fear is fed by different thoughts and unfounded beliefs such as the fear that, if we say something, others will not like it and they will stop relating to us, they will feel offended or because they will take us for people with strange ideas.
It has been found that this fear of rejection could have a physiological explanation.. A study at the University of Michigan found that social rejection causes the human body to create the same chemicals as when we suffer a physical blow. In other words, being rejected by others hurts us as much as if we had been assaulted.
The problem with this fear of rejection is that it can be so intense that it can it can become so intense that we keep so many things to ourselves that our internal "I" and the "I" that we expose to others will be very different.. We will have opinions, perceptions, feelings and emotions that are genuinely ours, but in order to make others like us, we will expose totally different, artificial ones, which despite the fact that we believe that they bring us closer to others, will cause us deep unhappiness.
2. Thinking that our ideas are not worth much
It often happens that to many of the things we think we give a rather low value.. It may be things without much sense, ideas and opinions that are projected in our mind and that we believe do not contribute anything interesting to the outside world, and therefore we do not say them. It may also be because we believe that nothing that comes from us can be important, this being a sign of lack of self-esteem and low self-confidence.
3. Thinking that we are going to make a fool of ourselves
Another reason for the fear of saying what you think has to do with the fear of making a fool of yourself. Actually, this perception has an adaptive function, since making sure that we do not say something and make a mistake can help us avoid a lot of psychological discomfort, as well as the potential possibility of saying or doing something that others do not like and that means losing social support.
However, this fear of making a fool of ourselves can become so intense that it prevents us from doing almost anything.. We do not want to go through the Pain of suffering, but we think that we can suffer for practically anything we say and do, and it is at this point that the fear of making a fool of ourselves acquires a clearly pathological and dysfunctional nuance. It prevents us from being genuine, from showing us how we are and, also, it restricts our freedom and the experience of enriching experiences.
How to overcome this fear?
Although it is a very common fear, that all we have lived and that it is possible to manage to live of such an intense form that even gives the impression that it is insurmountable, the certain thing is that yes it is possible to surpass. As we have mentioned, assertiveness is a skill that has a lot to do with this particular fear and that, the more worked and developed it is, the freer we will feel to say everything we think.
One of the best ways to learn how to manage and overcome the fear of speaking your mind is by attending psychotherapy.This is a place where we will learn communication skills and develop a more functional know-how every time we find ourselves in a social situation. However, we can also mention some strategies that we can introduce in our daily life to reduce this fear of speaking our mind:
1. Practice with controlled situations.
If the fear of speaking your mind can be worked on, what better way than to do it first with situations in which you feel confident? We can discuss our problem with the people we trust the most, telling them that we have chosen them as the ones to talk to.We can tell them that we have chosen them to practice our assertiveness.
Because they are people we trust and we are sure that they will not judge us for what we are going to say, this is a very good strategy for acquiring better communication skillsbreaking that transparent but very solid glass that is the fear of rejection and of making a fool of oneself.
2. Write down what you think
It often happens that we are at home alone and we start to say out loud everything we are thinking.. At that moment, it seems that all the ideas, opinions, thoughts in general that are stored deep in our mind come to us. Returning to the metaphor of the iceberg, it is as if, being alone, this piece of ice is exposed in its entirety above sea level.
However, when we have to face a real social situation, with another flesh-and-blood person, even if we want to say everything we have to say, it is as if we are alone, even if we want to say everything we want to say, it does not come to our minds.. The ideas start to lose connection, become intermingled, appear chaotically and frustrate us greatly.
To avoid this situation that clearly does not play in our favor, it is recommended that in those moments of fluid soliloquies we write down on paper everything that comes to us, we make an outline.
True, it sounds as if we were back in high school, making notes on the agenda, only that the agenda is the content of our own mind. By writing down what we think we will create a very useful cheat sheet that will help us to maintain serenity and coherence the next time we want to be sincere.
3. Work on self-esteem
One of the aspects that may be behind the fear of saying what you think is, clearly, the lack of self-esteem.. This problem will not only manifest itself when conversing with other people, but will affect all aspects of our life, which is why it is urgent to improve it.
Self-esteem does not come from nothing, but is built with facts, with positive aspects that make up our way of being. Nobody is perfect, we all have our weaknesses but also strengths such as being a gifted athlete, a good student, a great worker... Strengths that we can discover by taking some time to reflect and making a SWOT matrix.
By being aware of all the good things that make up our being, we can increase our self-esteem, make that fear of making a fool of ourselves more realistic and not permeate all the social situations that we imagine could go wrong, and we will gain confidence in our self-esteem. and, in addition, we will gain self-confidence. All this will increase our assertiveness, feeling more confident and free to say what we did not dare to make known to others.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)