Communication. Five syllables, one word. Yet, this one word has the power to make and break relationships. Growing up, my parents believed in open communication and always providing a safe space for my siblings and I to talk to them about anything. Like all lessons, I only ever realized the true value of communication after I experienced the negative effects that the lack of it has on my life. Sadly, this is usually the case with all my peers as well.
My moment of revelation was experiencing a disconnect with my identity. You see, as a child, I was always unapologetically myself but somewhere between then and growing up, I lost that part of me. I stopped living for myself and instead I began to live my life according to the standards that others set for me. It was exhausting to say the least. But, it was a struggle that no one realized I was dealing with because to the world it always seemed like it was just Ayah being Ayah. Until it broke me.
When I finally realized what was happening the damage had been done and it felt as though I had become stuck in this never-ending cycle of sadness and despair. I lost myself. I forgot who I was and with that, I forgot the strength that I carried within me. It has been a long battle, one that changed me for the better. But, I didn’t begin healing until I began to communicate with those around me about how things were affecting me.
It was truly an odd thing for people to know that I was struggling. It didn’t surprise me that they were surprised either. I had perfected acting like everything was going great. Primarily because I hated appearing weak. And to me, showing emotions such as stress or sadness was a sign of weakness. Plus, regardless of the safe space that my parents always made sure that I was aware of, I thought that feeling down and expressing those thoughts and feelings would only burden them and add to the stress they were feeling. Which is something I didn’t want to do.
After I began to open up, I understood why communicating was so important and why so many people in my generation struggle with it too. You see, although we might be living in a world where we are slowly learning the importance of caring for our mental and emotional health, we were raised by a generation that showed us that feelings shouldn’t affect our lives no matter how much they hurt. So, we learned to imitate those that we looked up to. This is why we perceived a lack of emotion as strength. That’s why only after experiencing an unignorable kind of pain and learning to heal from it do we realize what true strength is.
Like I said in the beginning, communication might just be one word made up of five syllables yet it has the power to make and break relationships. Often when we think of the relationships that the lack of communication impacts we only consider the external relationships around us – the ones we have with our friends, families, and colleagues. But, what we don’t realize is that the relationship which communication affects most is our internal relationship, the one that we have with ourselves. And when we forget this, we end up neglecting our well-being. We forget to watch how we talk to ourselves and how to care for our health – mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical.
As a Muslim, I am taught that my body is an amanah from Allah(God). An amanah is something that has been entrusted to you to care for and guard. It is something that I forget from time to time. But, the more I remind myself of this fact the more cautious I am about how I approach my relationship with myself. It’s why after I learned how important communicating is, I decided that no one was worth destroying my peace over. Because whether we want to admit it to ourselves or not the company we keep impacts the way we behave towards ourselves and others.
Especially since communication isn’t simply learning to express our thoughts and emotions, it’s also about learning to listen and read in between the lines. Because in life nothing is ever straightforward. And as we get older we end up feeling a multitude of new things. Our most complicated emotion stops being us feeling hangry. But rather there will be times when we feel both happiness and sadness, excitement and loneliness. And the most frustrating duo of emotions in my opinion, confused and aware, both at the same time. Which is why learning to listen and read in between the lines is so necessary. Because with learning how to do these things comes a better sense of understanding of yourself and others.
Most importantly, once you learn how to do all three aspects of communication – expressing your emotions, actively listening, and reading in between the lines – do you learn how to properly feel and heal from what you are experiencing. This is because no matter how aware you might be about the ups and downs in life, it doesn’t mean that you’ll know how to handle them or even want to experience them. I say this because no one wants to face the bad, experience the pain, or turn into a failure. Which is why we have become a generation that bottles up our emotions because we assume that if we don’t acknowledge it then it doesn’t exist. Or we convince ourselves that no one could possibly understand what we’re going through which is why we prefer to keep things to ourselves. But, what most of my peers don’t understand is that one of the biggest relief that communication brings is the sense of inclusivity and welcomeness.
This is because when we open up to others we realize that we aren’t alone. Not just with dealing with the lows of our life but also in the experiences that we deal with. Because there are so many things that we’ll go through in life that those around us have most likely experienced as well. However, like all things learning how to properly communicate and understanding its importance does take time. So, start first by learning what it means to communicate. Then proceed to apply your knowledge in your life. Then, sit back and watch how communication changes your life.
By: Ayah Barghout