True Talk: What Happens When You’re Afraid of What Others Will Say?

Hi again! We’ve received a bunch of questions from you about the ins and outs of truthtelling, so keep ‘em coming! For this installment of True Talk, I’m addressing the topic of how we can share sensitive stories when we run the risk of hurting other people or being criticized for broadcasting our truth.

Although so many of the truthtellers who decide to connect with Women For One are courageous and unabashed, many of us still struggle with the matter of exactly how much we should share. And many of us worry about the backlash that might come from giving voice to stories that involve our loved ones, or even the people who may have caused harm in our lives.

Granted, this is a subject I could write a book about. I’ve experienced my own fair share of conflict writing about experiences that might “implicate” family members or compromise the privacy of loved ones. Many memoir writers have talked about the ramifications of being transparent and dealing with the fallout of their brutal honesty. This is an individual journey that every truthteller has to take on her own, but here are my tips for dealing with the matter of what other people will say and think.

1. Opt for anonymity. If you find that your apprehension about other people reading your story is bigger than your desire to share it, we want to make the process of truthtelling as stress-free as it can be. If you feel you aren’t quite ready to go public with your truth, we encourage you to use your initials or remain anonymous. Many of our truthtellers who choose to be anonymous will feel it out over time, and some end up deciding to use their names—but only when they’ve developed more comfort with the idea of full disclosure. Feel free to take those baby steps and proceed at your own desired pace. We want you to do what’s right for you.

2. Focus on your experience instead of calling people out. It goes without saying that there are multiple sides to a story. We encourage you to honor yours. What does that mean? Instead of making your story about blaming, hurting, or incriminating others, you can choose to focus on your own lived experiences and how they impacted you. You can still tell the truth, but it needn’t be dominated by other people’s choices, actions, and behaviors. When we come back to what we received or learned from our life experiences, we cease to make other people so central in our stories—meaning that we take back our power. And if other people have a problem with that, then maybe they need to evaluate their own capacity to own their stories.

3. Connect with your inner good girl. Our good girl is the one who is willing to stifle her self-expression in order to placate or please others. She places a premium on being loved, because she has been conditioned to believe that this is where her value lies. So it’s no wonder that our good girl rears up when we do anything that pushes against the taboo of sharing our deepest truth, which we are taught will hurt others. After all, we live in a culture that often shames us for our stories. So when we move toward loving ourselves (as well as our inner good girl) through the shame, we develop the resilience to create transformation. We become more capable of facing our fears rather than running away from them. And we inspire others to do the same.

4. Surround yourself with supportive people. We may not always agree with one another in the Wf1 community, but one of our primary values is respect for everyone who joins their voices to our tribe. To that end, we moderate hateful or inappropriate comments while leaving room for spirited dialogue and genuine sisterhood. We seek to make this a safe and brave space for your full expression, and we also encourage you to find your people: the ones who want to see you shine and step into your power. They will help make the road ahead so much easier and more welcoming.

5. Remember the truthtelllers you love and admire most. It’s likely that they are courageous souls who overcame great challenges in their lives and braved the criticism of others. At the same time, they blazed their own trails and followed them with devotion and determination. True progress seldom comes from being nice and acceptable to other people; it comes from being willing to make waves in the name of truth, justice, and freedom for all. And you do this every time you dare to share your story and prioritize the truth that lives inside you.

Remember, true transformation is actually kind of scary, and that’s part of what makes it so fulfilling. But depending on how we look at it, our fear can be turned on a dime so that we can see our efforts as thrilling and growth-inducing rather than reasons to back away from the stories we want to tell. Sure, some might not be happy about your expressions of truth. But when it comes down to it, that’s par for the course. Just think of the readers who will be moved by your words, who will be so glad that you shared what you shared, who will recognize that they aren’t alone because someone out there was brave enough to be real.

Any other questions about truthtelling and writing your story? Email me at nirmala@womenforone.com and tell me what’s on your mind.

Nirmala Nataraj

About the Author | Nirmala Nataraj

Nirmala Nataraj is an award-winning author, editor, playwright, and counselor whose work has ranged from freelance journalism to copywriting in the advertising industry to transformational book coaching for first-time authors interested in translating their ideas from their heads to the page. Raised in California, with most of her career experience concentrated in the booming creative region of the San Francisco Bay Area, Nirmala recently relocated to New York’s Hudson Valley. She is currently working on editing three different books and writing a play about Egyptian gods, commissioned by the San Francisco Olympians Festival. Find out more about Nirmala at www.nirmalanataraj.com.

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