For too many years I suffered from a bad case of “approval-seeking.” I was desperate for validation from others. I never wanted to risk stating how I felt about things for fear that it would rock the boat and cause conflict.

As a result, I saw myself as a victim of others’ mistreatment or neglect, when the truth was that I was really just a victim of my own fear: I WAS AFRAID TO BE ME. Living my life dependent on the opinion of others was my prescription for inner turmoil, depression, addiction, and chaos.

Learning to value my own opinions and desires has had a ripple effect through every area of my life: I am free to be myself, and in turn I can allow others to be whomever and however they choose to be.

Here are some important lessons to remember as you learn to find and express your own inner voice:

1. How you feel and what you need are just as important as the feelings and needs of others. Instead of always dismissing your ideas and feelings as “not that important,” you need to value them and see that you are equal to all others. WHAT YOU FEEL AND THINK IS WORTHY OF BEING HEARD.

2. You will not die from saying how you feel. At one time I believed that either I would die, or others would die from hearing my honest feelings and opinions (I am not talking about being hurtful.) Only by practicing speaking up have I learned that this is not the case at all. Not only did I not die, I have become empowered.

3. You will not die if someone disagrees with your decisions. I thought I would crumble without the approval of others, but when I was willing to feel the initial uncomfortable feelings I experienced when others did not agree with or like my decisions, I got stronger and the fear of such feelings got weaker.

4. When you follow your own heart, people around you may at first be uncomfortable, but THEY ADJUST! It amazed me that no matter how threatened others were with the “new me,” when I persisted in doing what was right for me, they eventually settled down and got used to my new ways; in fact, they even respected me for them!

5. By being true to yourself, and thriving on account of it, you are setting an example that will inspire others to step out and make changes. Your gift to yourself of changing is also a gift to others.

6. It is no one’s responsibility to read you mind. YOU MUST SPEAK UP! You can’t blame others for not doing it “your way” when you are not even willing to express yourself and what you want! Change means letting go of the games of pouting and making others feel bad for not reading your mind. I no longer feel “misunderstood,” because I speak up and give others an opportunity to understand me!

7. Resentments come from not speaking up and being heard. Resentments erode your soul and your health. Discuss your feelings until you feel resolved and then MOVE ON.

8. Practice listening to others. I was so busy obsessing about my own feelings, what I wanted to say, and how others would receive me that I did not pay close attention to the ideas and feelings of others. When I put aside thoughts about me, and truly listened to others, I found that others began to truly listen to me!

9. “Say what you mean, mean what you say, but don’t say it mean.” The tendency for people who are afraid of being honest and forthright is to build up so much fear and resentment, that they blurt out their feelings, often offending others with the force of their delivery. Practice saying what you mean in a direct way, with kindness and respect.

10. Give yourself permission to be awkward as you begin to speak up. This is not an easy transition to make. Know that at first you may stumble over your words, you may not get your point across, and that others may not like your speaking up. Just because others may not agree with what you say does not mean that your beliefs are wrong. Don’t apologize for your opinion: “This may be a stupid thing to say, but…” Or, after they express a difference of opinion, don’t backpedal by saying, “You’re right, I’m wrong; I don’t know what I was thinking.” HOLD YOUR HEAD HIGH! Everyone respects people who risk being the minority voice. And you will be surprised to find that often others will join you and you will become the majority voice.

Self-esteem comes from taking risks and being YOU, not from the approval of others. So speak up, and notice how many people begin to listen up!

Author's Bio: 

Having lost 50 lbs. through identifying and addressing the underlying causes of her emotional eating, Tricia Greaves founded Heal Your Hunger an online resource which offers hope and healing for emotional eaters worldwide. Tricia is also the director of The Greaves Foundation for those with nowhere else to turn for help with eating disorders, obesity and addictions. Tricia is the author of many articles on emotional eating, eating disorders, healthy weight loss and addictions. She is also the contributing author of 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Health and the popular Thank God I book series in which she writes a chapter called, “Thank God I Was Fat.” To learn more and to register for your free “HYH JumpStart Kit,” visit