8 Tips for How YOU Can Learn to Speak Up

Speaking Up is Good Medicine

by Christiane Northrup, M.D.

In order to heal, Speak Up! Silence IS the disease. — Dr. Christiane Northrup

We hear of so many “silent” diseases today — everything from thyroid disease to heart disease, kidney and liver dysfunction to Celiac disease, and from “female problems” to the now-popular Lyme disease. And, just look at all the new books there are recounting someone’s “suffering in silence” from one of these and many other diseases!

But, what is really going here? I’ll tell you: Silence IS the disease.

Women are often the ones who suffer their symptoms in silence. Often they have been shamed by doctors who don’t want to hear how the standard protocols don’t help them. This is the same thing as being bullied! However, it’s far more subtle than outright bullying.  For example, how many of you have been handed a referral to a psychiatrist or worse, a prescription for anti-depressants, and a reputation for being a difficult patient just because you spoke up to your doctor?  And, sometimes even your own family members (both male and female) are the ones who are insensitive when you express discomfort or ask for support.  As such, many women feel guilty about speaking up about their symptoms.

Much of this has to do with our patriarchal society and the belief that the masculine ways of being (and doing) are superior to the feminine ways of being (and doing). This programming has been a part of World culture for thousands of years. And after 5,000 years of patriarchal programming, it’s no surprise that women get sick in the uniquely female areas of their bodies or have unique expressions of other diseases manifesting in symptoms that cannot be healed through the conventional ways of doing things. The irony here is that our health care system is designed around the belief that a woman’s body will eventually cause suffering and pain, and she will ultimately require a great deal of testing and medical care from the system that won’t listen to her in the first place.

In Order To Heal, Speak Up

All illnesses are designed to stop you in your tracks, make you rest, and bring your attention back to the things that are really important and that give your life meaning and joy. However, in my experience and what I have seen with my patients over the years, you can’t fully feel joy if you don’t express yourself.  

Yet, self-expression can be difficult. Many of us did not have role models who demonstrated healthy communication. Perhaps, you grew up with many siblings and it was chaotic and loud in your home so you stayed quiet to avoid contributing to the chaos. Or, perhaps you were taught to only speak when spoken to, or to only speak if you had something nice to say. Maybe, your mother kept silent, never voicing her opinions or feelings. Or, perhaps you were actually told to stay quiet because of a family secret, such as alcoholism or sexual abuse.

There may be many reasons that contribute to your code of silence. An important step in relieving any symptoms in your body is to shift the pattern of being a silent victim and speak your truth.  Speaking up shifts your vibration and elevates you to a place where you can begin to heal.  This is not always easy and sometimes there are many layers to deal with.  I know this first hand.

I used to have canker sores repeatedly as a kid. If you’ve ever had them, you know how painful they can be. I hadn’t had one for many years. And then this summer I got a big one right under my tongue in the front of my mouth.  It manifested on a visit to my childhood home – it arose just about the time I arrived and lasted for the entire visit!  Clearly my childhood self was trying to get my attention. During my visit I was acutely conscious of how much I have changed and grown over the years when it comes to my relationship with my mother.  I resisted the urge to try to “rescue” her emotionally – a pattern that started when I was 4 years old — even though the opportunity presented itself repeatedly.  Instead, I talked out my observations with another family member who also saw the pattern clearly, and together we did a lot of healing.

8 Tips for How YOU Can Learn to Speak Up

Improving your diet and lifestyle are not enough to relieve all of your symptoms or conditions.  In order to heal, you need to find your voice and express what you feel.

Here’s what I suggest:

  1. Find a doctor you can partner with. The secret to thriving is knowing that you are never simply a victim of your body or other peoples’ perceptions of it – including your doctor’s! Find a health care practitioner who you feel comfortable talking to. When you can voice your own opinions, intuition, concerns and wishes, you will feel more positive about recovering your health.
  1. Surround yourself with friends who want you to be healthy. You know the saying, “misery loves company.”  Many people find friends that have the same health issues and then spend their time together dwelling on their symptoms. This can also run in families.  While its good to be able to express how you are feeling, it’s the expression itself that heals.  When you dwell on your symptoms and relive them over and over, you are actually perpetuating your illness. Find friends who have good health and healthy habits, who will listen to you, but will also encourage you.
  1. Speak kindly about your body. Often when people are sick — especially when they are living with a chronic condition – they have a tendency to get frustrated and speak in a less-than-loving manner about their bodies. Healing your physical symptoms starts by changing your perception of your body and speaking about it, and to it, with love.  This allows you to own your role in your own healing process. If you don’t know where to begin, simply start by saying “I love and accept myself in this body unconditionally.” Say this out loud in front of mirror every day.  If you have a specific issue or symptom, you can say “despite my headaches (fill in the blank), I love and accept myself unconditionally.”
  1. Practice having your say. If you are having trouble speaking to someone about your symptoms or conditions – whether it’s your doctor, a family member, work colleagues or friends – practice what you need to convey to them ahead of time.  You can even write down bullet points or an entire script to help you. If you feel that you will not be given the time to say what you need to tell someone, make an appointment.  Don’t short change yourself if someone says they have limited time.  Say you will reschedule and then follow up.
  1. Know that the act of speaking up is enough. Often I hear women say, “I don’t speak up because I am never heard.” Or, “no one listens when I speak.”  The reality is, you are heard more than you know.  That does not mean everyone will want to engage you on your level.  And that’s ok. Your truth is your truth. It may not be anyone else’s. However, your truth is valid!  You deserve to speak it and to be heard. However, you will never be able to control how someone perceives you, so release your attachment to being heard or having what you say validated. The simple act of speaking up for yourself helps to heal your body and your soul.  As you speak up more, you will begin to attract those people who are willing to listen. You can also practice saying “my voice is necessary. What I have to say is valuable.”
  1. Be truthful – always. When someone asks you how you are, do you always say “I’m fine,” even when you are not feeling well?  The best way to honor yourself and your body is to learn to speak your truth to others, and also to yourself. Truth carries a higher vibration and not speaking your truth, or stuffing it down by being silent, can weaken your energy field (aura). You can start simply by saying “I am not feeling very well today,” or “I feel pain today in my joints,” or whatever your symptoms are.  Don’t elaborate or complain. Just the act of stating how you feel is enough. When you release the pattern of being silent, you begin to shift from victim to healer.  Be sure to also say “I trust my body to heal,” or “I have my strength,” or some other positive affirmation to let your cells know you are focused on healing. 
  1. Write a truth letter. Sometimes it doesn’t benefit us to confront a person with our truth.  For example, perhaps you are caring for a sick, elderly parent and the timing isn’t right.  Or, maybe you continue to re-hash the way an employer treated you poorly years ago. In this case, I recommend you write a letter to clear the air.  Write as though you are going to mail the letter and take responsibility for your part in the situation.  You do this by writing in the first person – “I feel” — as opposed to the third person – “you did this.” You can mail, save, or even burn the letter when you’re done.
  1. Re-establish the link between your head and your heart. No matter how much we know spiritually, we still have a body on this Earth. The only way we can align our souls with our bodies is by expressing ourselves through our words. Think of your voice as the mediator between your head and your heart. What do you truly desire? What do you stand for? By speaking about your desires and beliefs, you begin to separate your fears from your truth. It may not change your reality, but it jump-starts the healing process. Speaking my truth didn’t change the facts of my family situation. It didn’t change the outcome of events. But it changed me – and healed my canker sore!

 

Last Updated: December 15, 2015

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and a leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. Recognizing the unity of body, mind, and spirit, she empowers women to trust their inner wisdom, their connection with Source, and their ability to truly flourish.

Comments

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  1. Janna
    3 years ago

    This is an awesome article that clearly and simply describes how to say something when it’s uncomfortable to speak. I am loving this article more than any other I have read currently on the Internet. Thank you for your beautiful words!

  2. Cynthia
    4 years ago

    Dear Dr. Northrup, I’m so grateful for your wisdom and encouragement that you generously share. I come back to you time after time when need thoughtful encouragement and perspective. I searched Lyme on your website and behold the synchronicity, as currently I am actually wrestling with whether or not to tell a family member that I have Lyme. I’ve been the mysteriously sensitive one in my family for as long as I can remember. Sharing how I feel has not felt safe. In addition to lyme, my most recent diagnosis, there’s mold illness, celiac, EBV, and a few other drags on my immune system. In the last decade I searched high and low for reasons why I “felt poisoned” why I couldn’t think straight, why my ears ring, my vision goes blurry, more and more foods cause an allergic reaction, my gut doesn’t seem to work, and so on. Then this past week came the lyme results that my doctor wisely sought after a low blood count persisted and other symptoms continued despite various attempts at treatment. Over the years I’ve tried to hide my depression, fatigue, dizziness, food allergies, aches, swollen glands, headaches, etc, etc. There were doctors who treated me like I was crazy, or refused to see me again once I declined their IBS meds or Xanax. One doctor kindly warned of my eventual death due to worry. Many of these experiences reinforced my reclusive tendencies and that maybe I was just too sensitive. Even though I continued to seek answers, my hiding escalated and I began to lose my Trust (aka Love) in life, in myself, in everyone. Once again I’m struck with synchronicity as the message in my Sunday service today was Trust. The message included “I pray with Trust, feeling the Love of the Divine.” The hiding and “silencing” myself is like the mold and lyme that’s been festering under the surface all this time. Bringing it all into the light, speaking my truth and trusting I will be okay is undoubtedly a crucial step in my healing path. Many thanks for all you offer to heal and empower.

  3. Robin
    4 years ago

    Thank you for this article. I have always been nervous about expressing my beliefs and opinions because I believed they needed to be validated by others. I see now that this belief is damaging to my health and well being. Also, how can I expect others to understand or care about me if they don’t really know what is going on. Speaking up is tough as I am naturally quiet but I can try.

  4. ruzica.cordeaux
    5 years ago

    beautifully written to the point!

  5. Nai`a NEWLIGHT
    5 years ago

    Happy new year, Dr. N, and mahalo for your (always) enlightening commentary! I had canker sores repeatedly, as a child, too, and never before had inquired into their psychological ramification. Will I, now? You betcha!

  6. Bennett Fischer
    5 years ago

    My dad is going to talk to his doctor next week about some pain he’s been feeling in his stomach, and he wants to make sure he talks to him correctly. That being said, I really appreciate you letting me know how important it is to be prepared to talk about the problem. I definitely think that if my dad understands kind of what’s going on beforehand, that it will help him out a ton. I’ll be sure to show this to him right away. Thanks for the help.

  7. I’ve had this post up for two weeks, finally today I could read it. Yesterday I started a private blog to write out my anger at a family situation. I’ve published elsewhere and have been vocal and a leader for years, but lately as my family of origin gets to their final years they lash out and judge unfairly. I’m constantly being told I get too stressed and too emotional. So I’ve written three blogs and suddenly I was able to say no to waffles and seeing my brother with them at their house to celebrate the first. No thank you. Still a little guilt. Loved hearing about your canker sore (not that you had it) but how it related to you needing to help your mother emotionally since you were 4 years old. YES YES YES. I am so grateful you went global and didn’t hide your truth and essence from the world but instead were brave enough to tell the absolute truth about how glorious being a woman can be.

  8. Margreet
    5 years ago

    ❤️

  9. Martha
    5 years ago

    Two days before Thanksgiving a long-time “friend” took me to the woodshed because I didn’t respond to a text (I was working at home) when she needed me. The next day, after I had apologized for not being available, she furthered her shame and belittling by comparing me to two of her other friends who “dropped everything” for her when she texted. She also compared me to her way of being a friend (even though I’ve been a good friend). I didn’t know how to stop abuse–a pattern I developed as a child. Over the next month I had the worst acid reflux and stomach ache of my life–and that is saying something. Throughout my life I felt powerless in the face of people shaming or belittling me, but thought I had overcome the tendency to stuff it. I hadn’t. After suffering for a month I wrote her a letter. Surprisingly, she apologized. But the lesson is this: I will never again harm myself by stuffing my anger or hurt. Thank you for Goddesses Never Age–love the book and the message.

  10. Mary Caparro
    5 years ago

    Doctor, I could agree with you more. I have decided to be true to myself and to speak my mind when necessary. I am currently menopausal and not speaking my mind is not an option. If find that when I am no being true to myself or speaking my mind, my menopausal symptoms make an appearance in a big way. When that happens, I know that is my mind and bodies way of saying “get with the program” and just be true to who and what you are.

  11. Anonymous
    5 years ago

    Yes, this is a wonderful blog but please talk to God too, as by the power of His Spirit He will transfuse His healing into your mind,body and soul! I come from a horrific background of mental,emotional,sexual abuse and sodomy as a child.
    Considered suicide MANY times as was constantly haunted with the mental torment,secret shame, and confusion that was my constant companion. I came from a prominent family then and had a role to play and truth was never a part of it so I learnt to hide very well. When I have tried to talk about it, I lose my voice and feel as if I am going to choke. All that has now changed since I have learnt to commune with God. I am now 61 years old and used to walk around feeling a 100!
    Now, I wake up fresh, feel much younger and am excited about the future no matter what, as God says,”I will restore
    the years the locusts have eaten.” My heart goes out to much of what I have just read and want to encourage you that no matter what you have gone through, He will pick up the broken pieces, if you let Him and make you as good as new!

    1. Nai`a NEWLIGHT
      5 years ago

      …and so will Goddess, only more so!

  12. Sudeshna Sengupta
    5 years ago

    Excellent points made. Thank you. The bullying especially by male doctors or by female doctors who buy into the same system, also parallels how many men, not all, ‘bully’ women into thinking that the woman in their heterosexul relationship is too emotional and overreacting … when she tries to open up an honest conversation and communication. It’s equally harmful to our health to fall for such false accusation and accept such poison of patriarchy.

  13. Sonya
    5 years ago

    Dear Christiane.
    Thank you for speaking about what ails me most. I vow to work on speaking my truth. Interestingly, I just saw a piece from the Canadian show ‘Positive Living’ that had Nellie Vieira speaking about being authentic in our communication. I promise to tell the truth about my desires first to myself and then to others.

  14. Afsaneh
    5 years ago

    I totally relate. I learned when I was fourty to change the pattern. I took singing lessons. I remembered how I loved to sing when I was little and then I stopped singing before I became a teenager. It helped a lot. I know that women who speak up (hopefully without aggression) are labeled “difficult”, but I also know that I choose to do it, and my daughter is learning with me. It’s all about ripple effect!
    Thank you Christian! Loving you!

  15. Paula C Odierno
    5 years ago

    Thank you in rxd illness 13 years. I guess I am special and undefined. I grew up in an alcoholic household. I am still getting over my childhood. I am proud of myself, my strength and courage. I would just love to feel healthy!

    Thanks!

  16. Vanessa
    5 years ago

    Thank you for this information.. As I write this I am in pain. Although this enlightened me as to what is happening to my body. I do not speak up for me. Even family members say they can not hear me. But my body it has shown up. Specifically my back and hip. The first thing I said to myself what did I do wrong for this to happen. Too frighten to go to doctor all I will get is drugs that affect my thinking process. So I searched out healing dances to see if that can help and thank you for the words for my body. I miss being part of a Sisterhood. But todsy is a good day. Love the tee shirt

  17. Sheila
    5 years ago

    I love this post too! This is something I have been working on for the last 4 years. I had never previously spoken my truth which resulted in a lot of unhappiness.
    This should be taught in schools to all age groups! Thank you Dr Northrup thank you!

  18. Bee
    5 years ago

    What a wonderful article, especially at this time of year – thank you. It’s very difficult to know what one’s truth is, when you’ve never been able to express it. But your words are very healing in themselves. I read an article a few years ago which said that people should be asked ‘what happened to you’ rather than ‘what’s wrong with you’

  19. Nai`a NEWLIGHT
    5 years ago

    Mahalo, doc– wonderful, as usual! I am dedicated to outspokenness, especially in my new-ish coupledom. Query– what do you do when he says, “I shouldn’t have told you that!”?

  20. Anupama
    5 years ago

    This is just a wonderful article. I come from India, a typical patriarchal society, but I am blessed to be born to a mother who never fears to speak her mind out. I thought this happened only in India where doctors would completely admonish patients (in my case my mom) when they would have a lot of questions, or other women would say “oh you think too much” just because you speak your mind out. Even amongst my Indian counterparts in America, I am perceived to be too liberal, but their perception does not stop me from being my true self.

  21. Linda Collins Thomas
    5 years ago

    Thanks so very much for this post, Dr. Northrup. It is so true that women tend to stay held back in letting their voice be heard. I went to Connecticut College for Women soon after it went coed (1969) and at the time, the tale was that the women in the newly mixed classes called their school Connecticut College for Women and Boys.  Later I went to a master’s program at Smith College. There is no doubt about it, undergrad Smith Women felt entirely comfortable about speaking up as well as taking leadership roles. They were told they were the “cream”, and they believed it! Ironically, when married, these same women often took on supportive roles and spoke with deference, in their personal and work lives. I am currently teaching a class at the University of Rhode Island called “How I Learned to Speak Up.” Luckily, it is for the Osher Life Long Learning Institute which is open to community seniors 50 years and older. My classes are having a glorious opportunity to find their voices and make change happen in their lives! One whole segment is devoted to Health and Speaking Up. So, I strongly suspect, they will get healthier as they don’t have to use their bodies to scream silently, and can be free to have a true voice and happiness at last.

    1. Barb Greason
      5 years ago

      I enjoyed reading your reply. How I Learned to Speak Up class sounds wonderful. I remember being part of a women’s sharing circle. Where one of us sat in the middle of the circle. And one question was “what do you think your gifts are”? I found it very emotional to see a 75 year old women not be able to have an answer. Keeping silent for so long.. Is defeating. Good luck with your course. I wish i could attend!

  22. Mary Elizabeth
    5 years ago

    A very timely message for me. I gave someone a letter about our situation just this past week-end. It had a very positive affect and may be the beginning of healing a very difficult , long standing relationship. It was a loving but truthfully assertive letter and I felt so much better after discussing the contents with them. You are right, speaking up is so much better than remaining silent. Both of us made shifts because of this letter. Thank you for this blog, I am taking it to heart.

  23. Charli
    5 years ago

    I think all of your tips are great. The writing is one of my favorite. I do it in pencil and get everything out that I need to get off my chest. No one is going to read it, so I get to really let everything out. Then I burn it , knowing that I am releasing all of the emotions from a deep cellular level. Then I refill with light. It is very cathartic. And a bonus of this practice is that energetically, the other person gets it. Not a smack of negativity, but clearing of the negativity as well.
    Thank you for all of the wonderful information you put out to the world!

  24. Irene
    5 years ago

    Dealing with thyroid issues and menopause for years, my experience has been that the drs. treat you like a lab value, not a person. The drs. have a way of not listening and feeling threatened when you speak up and offer information that you’ve learned on your own. I’ve been to doctor after doctor with the same story and have felt intimidated to question anything. They tell you that you have anxiety and depression and “have you been to a psychiatrist”. Putting a bandaid on the problem doesn’t solve the problem. Thanks Dr. Northrup for this blog

  25. Lisa
    5 years ago

    Great article! Fifth chakra issues involving our ability to communicate, like thyroid problems and or thyroid cancer, are a perfect example where speaking our truth is required!

  26. Rayna Stark
    5 years ago

    This blog resonated with me, Christiane. I am only learning to speak up now in my 50’s and there are still things I keep bottled up inside. What does one do when the person you are telling your truth to refuses to hear it, puts up a wall so that I am actually feeling I am talking to a wall of silence. This person (my partner) means a lot to me and there are realities that I am not comfortable with, but he says he is a man and he must do what he must do, no matter how it impacts me. And yet he will not talk at all about his trips to “support” his ex, whom he was has known for 15 years. He swears to me that they have not been having sex in 5 years. But his emotional attachment to her is very strong – I feel it is stronger than his to me. In the 4 years we have been together, I have developed great pain in my legs and feet. I have been bipolar all my life and he sort of pretends that is not the case. When I am depressed his reaction is “Snap out of it.”” If you’re not going to help yourself, who will?” And yet, his ex needs him (she lives in Philly, thousand of miles away from here) because apparently she has brain cancer and she was going to die any minute the second year he want to be with her for weeks at a time. Four years later, she is still alive, but now he has gone to drive her thousands of miles to South Carolina to visit her dying twin sister. He pays for all the expenses, the flights, the rented cars,, the food that he cooks for her, the driving, the stress. All he emails to me is that it’s very bad there, it’s very stressful, but that’s all I know. She does not know I exist, and he hasn’t introduced me to his “family” (he helped raise a boy and was with the boys’ grandmother, whom he still has a lot of affection for. Neither to any of his friends. I am nonexistent. When I try to speak up to him about these issues, he clams up. This year, he went to her twice. Last Xmas she asked him to be there and he went. I expect he will go down there again this Spring. The worst thing is that for the last 4 years, he has literally invaded my brain and there is not one situation, or day or night that I do not think of him and I am exhausted. We have fought bitterly many times, but he thinks the solution is to have sex, and that’s what we’ve been doing – sex is the reason we got together and now it seems to be a very strong glue that binds us, even though we do couple things as well. I am dying to Speak Out my Truth.

    1. Toni
      5 years ago

      You deserve better sweetheart x.

  27. April
    5 years ago

    Raised in the south so speaking up directly as a woman was/is not part of the culture. My mom was/is a very passive-aggressive communicator which I fully understand why, but I learned some really bad habits from her I am working on “unlearning”! Thanks for this sound advice Dr. Northrup to help me be a better communicator so I can be an advocate for my well being!

  28. Diane
    5 years ago

    Wonderful advice! I am learning to speak my truth more often!

  29. Angel
    5 years ago

    Excellent article. I was silenced from the time I was a child. I was told not to rock the boat of our dysfunctional family and just be nice. I carried this into adulthood when I married into a dysfunctional family and sat quietly as they verbally berated me for years. In recent years, I started helping myself and giving myself permission to speak up. However my now elderly parent also seeks emotional rescuing on a daily basis and is physically ill as well. With no family to help and no extra finances, I find myself being the daily caregiver and it is causing a lot of the same problems for me that I experienced in my earlier years. What can you do in this type of situation?

  30. Emily Piche
    5 years ago

    Thank you for helping me to center on these important details! This is the letter I wrote to my self after reading this blog!
    I TRUST MY BODY TO HEAL
    I HAVE MY STRENGTH
    I HAVE MY LEGS TO CARRY ME
    I HAVE MY ARMS TO GATHER LOVE IN
    I HAVE MY HANDS TO WRITE
    I HAVE EARS TO HEAR BEAUTIFUL MUSIC
    I HAVE A VOICE TO SPEAK MY TRUTH
    I……. AM…….. LOVED.

    1. Jillian
      5 years ago

      Nice Emily… ❤️ Love what you wrote.

    2. Sue
      5 years ago

      Good statements. Powerful messages to self.

  31. TheTunaFairy
    5 years ago

    I wish “find a doctor you can partner with” was an easy thing. So tired of being “too complex” because I don’t walk in for a 5 minute antibiotic appointment. No, I need either several hours to tell you it all, or for you to actually read the 20 pages I brought with me. And neither ever happens, I get told “just take this” Um, been there, done that, didn’t help, ain’t going there again.

  32. Kathleen
    5 years ago

    Christiane, recieving the information in this e-mail was perfect timing. I am going to practice your recommendations and monitor the outcome. Thank you so much! I am currently finishing, Goddess Never Age. Love love love it
    Kathleen

  33. Trish
    5 years ago

    I LOVE this post! Thank you for validating what outspoken women do!

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