When is the last time you made a declaration to the world? To a colleague? To a loved one? When is the last time you heard your own voice declare what it is that you need?
I've been working a lot with declarations lately, both in my individual client relationships and in group workshops. We work on self-declarations. Commitments that we make to ourselves and against which we hold ourselves accountable. But this got me thinking about all types of declarations and how we go about declaring our needs, our dreams, and our priorities to the world.
I asked a client recently, "When is the last time you declared your needs out loud and with confidence to another person?" The answer was, "I don't think I've ever done that."
The culture of relationships and business in the United States values compromise. A lot of compromise. All the time. Our main buzzwords in project land are "teamwork", "building bridges", and "reaching across the aisle."
Don't get me wrong. These are vital elements to working with others, exploring ideas, and getting things done. However, we need to leave some room, somewhere, to voice our needs in the form of a declaration.
When we hold in our declarations, we often end up compromising our lives. A friend of mine whose husband lives abroad for work recently shared with me her frustration that they were constantly landing in countries that she felt were not safe or healthy to raise children. She always imagined having a large family, but didn't want to add another child to the mix until they were in, what she considered, a more stable environment. She waited and waited as she got older and the gap between their first child and a possible second grew.
Hesitantly, I asked her, "does your husband know how you feel?"
She responded, "well, he's always known I wanted a big family."
I followed up, "when was the last time you clearly told him that you only want to consider countries that you feel comfortable raising a baby? And that you want it as soon as possible?"
She responded, "I don't feel comfortable saying that because he has clearly stated to me that certain countries are better for his career."
While her husband had made a clear declaration of his needs, she had not done the same.
Making a declaration out loud is scary. It leaves you vulnerable. It opens up the possibility of rejection. But I would argue that holding in a declaration can be more damaging. As far as we know, we have one life. The time to live it is now. Compromise can be important, but you have to first declare to others what your needs are so they know what it is you are compromising.
First, try it by yourself. Think about the thing you want, more than anything. The thing that has been sitting on the back burner. The thing that you want but feel that maybe you shouldn't. Say it out loud, to yourself. Let it hang in the air. What does it feel like to hear it out loud? What does your voice sound like saying it?
Next, try it on someone you love and trust. Shout it. Feel the words in your body. Where do you feel it? Fluttering in your heart? Sinking in your stomach? Lifting you from your feet?
Then, when you are ready, say it to a person that feels risky. Own it. Believe it.
This is YOUR life. Even if you don't do everything you dreamed of, at least have the opportunity to declare those dreams out loud.
You deserve for your voice to be heard.