Hey, guys – welcome back to TNTH!
If I were to have any “new years resolutions” for this year, one would be that I will definitely practice more forms of assertiveness in my life. If you’ve been a long-time reader of the blog, you would be familiar with my internal struggle of defending myself and seeing more self-worth in myself when it comes to being in social situations. In simpler words, I have a hard time not allowing people to treat me in a certain way without sticking up for myself. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m some pushover, it just means that I avoid situations where I allow people to dictate my life for me or take my kindness and generosity for granted. I thought I had to be more selfish with myself, and for the most part, it worked; I had a better understanding of what I wanted, who I was, and if you didn’t fall under those circumstances or related to those things, you were automatically cut out of my life. As I got older, I realized how unfair and one-sided that was towards the people in my life who necessarily weren’t “on my level” due to their own struggles and triggers, and in the end, I lost a lot of people in my life because of it. I shared that before therapy, I didn’t know that the type of change I needed in my personality and attitude was assertiveness, and honestly, that’s all that’s been on my mind since.
In the past, I’ve always been one extreme or another; I was either way too passive and let others make decisions for me without knowing what it was that I needed, or I was too aggressive which was when I lost friends along the way. I’ve also been passive-aggressive, which in a sense, which was just a confusing combination of both, which at the end, it would leave me feeling uneasy. In between these extremes is the act of assertiveness, which in my own journey of enforcing it: it’s not the easiest thing to get down packed.
Assertiveness takes a lot of practice simply because it requires you to swallow your pride in situations where you know you’re in the wrong but also have it handy when you’re standing for what you know is right in those same situations. It’s difficult, especially if you are also a person who tends to think about other people’s feelings a lot more than yours at times. We are taught at a young age to be respectful to other people’s thoughts and opinions without ever getting taught that it’s also extremely healthy and normal to think about yourself at the same time. No, you aren’t “a bitch” when expressing yourself and your thoughts on topics and disagreeing with others, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re “nice” when you agree with people as well. Assertiveness allows people to be understanding, yet confident enough about the things they want, need, and who they are as individuals in society. It also allows people to weigh in on debates with an unbiased opinion: instead of saying, “they don’t know what they are talking about and they really should just shut up because they sound so stupid”, you say, “I may not completely understand what it is that they believe about this, but I will respect it and they will respect my thoughts on it as well.”
Of course, saying that you want to be more assertive with others is a lot easier said than done. You’re going to get into disagreements and angry and upset and all that “meeting in the middle” stuff you’re learning to do is going to fly right out the window, especially when you’re in the process of becoming more assertive. You will become passive when all you want to do is just stop arguing, and you will become aggressive when you feel like you aren’t being heard. It takes a lot of willpower to bring yourself back and remember what it truly means to practice assertiveness. Assertiveness is not being mean and one-sided, it’s about being understanding of the other person yet knowing that what you need and what you want is just as important as theirs. I know sometimes when I get heated in a conversation when I don’t feel like I’m being heard well enough, I know I have to take some take away from the situation and really think over what it is that the other person wants, what I want, and how we can come out of it on the same page with the same level of respect.
And learning that comes with practice. Don’t avoid confrontations and arguments and disagreements. Don’t just bottle it up because you’re afraid of the worst-case scenario. You are allowed to be heard, you are allowed to express what you need and what you want, and you are allowed understandings and respect.
You’re allowed to be straight-forward with yourself because no one is going to be straight-forward with you if you are not doing it yourself. And that’s the true tea.