Frustrated with life? Early in my life, I realized my “niceness” made me a doormat. I railed against the injustice of trying to be a kind, productive, creative person, while feeling taken advantage of and not respected for my suggestions.
I learned that creating my choice of lifestyle, setting appropriate boundaries, speaking my truth without attacking others, and accepting that my personal choices won’t always be understood, all require assertiveness.
Assertiveness is not being pushy or mean. That’s aggression.
Assertiveness is taking charge of your life appropriately – in a way that brings preferred results. Assertive people have a clear sense of “Self”. You act and make choices to honor your Self. You speak and act in a manner that respects who you are, while at the same time acknowledging the other person has their own perspective. You set boundaries on how you are treated, yet don’t force your beliefs on others.
Few of us were raised to be assertive.
Most people fall into one of these three categories:
- One response to life is to be passive, allowing other people and outside circumstances to run our life.
- Another response is to be passive-aggressive, allowing others to run our life until we can’t take it anymore and then we subtly undermine them or explode in an outright attack.
- A third option is to aggressively ram through life, pushing our agenda on others.
Each of these three attitudes creates an energetic and relationship wake behind us that stirs up confusion and distrust. Yet let us not be hard on ourselves – it’s how we figured out to survive in this morass of human communication. As a child, we faced a chaotic, unfathomable world and did what we could to survive to adulthood. We aren’t stuck with that. We can re-create ourselves.
There is a fourth option: Assertiveness.
Early in life, I realized my “niceness” was making me a doormat. I determined to learn assertiveness through books and classes. In my search I came across a list of 15 assertiveness rights (in an article from Daytimer) that guided me through my personal life and professional career. Consider each carefully. Intentionally applying one at a time, determine to practice each assertiveness right. When you focus on one, you can count on life bringing you opportunities to apply it. When you feel complete with one, move on to the next. In time, assertiveness becomes natural, and the only way you want to live.
- I have the right to be treated with courtesy and respect.
- I have the right to have and express my own feelings and opinions.
- I have the right to be listened to and to be taken seriously.
- I have the right to set my own priorities.
- I have the right to say NO without feeling guilty.
- I have the right to ask for what I want.
- I have the right to get what I pay for.
- I have the right to make mistakes.
- I have the right to assert myself even though I may inconvenience or hurt others.
- I have the right to choose not to assert myself.
- I have the right to disagree with others about an issue and still work positively with them.
- I have the right to be myself and to be happy at all times under all circumstances.
- I don’t need others’ approval for who I am.
- I have the right to remain neutral, to accept things the way they are, and I don’t have to choose sides. I don’t have to have an opinion or position on everything.
- I have the right to have some personal and private time and space for myself without having the approval of others.
Think this is too self-oriented? In my next post I list assertiveness rights of others. You’ll learn it is a balancing act of finding the boundary between your own needs as compared to what others need.
If you are passive in nature, assertiveness will feel pushy and aggressive to you.
If your nature is aggressive, assertiveness will feel wimpy and passive.
It’s a matter of changing by degrees until you feel comfortable with your new persona. When are you going to work with this? Today is a good day to begin.
Be Forewarned! When you begin acting more assertive, you will confuse people around you. They are used to you behaving as you did in the past. When you change behavior, they may temporarily increase dysfunctional behavior in response. Remain calm and continue your assertiveness practice. In time they will realize you are steady on your course and begin to respond differently. Remember, you are practicing a new skill. Don’t expect perfection from yourself. Expect to make mistakes; that’s how we learn. But do hold yourself accountable. The end result will be stronger self-esteem and confidence.
Take life into your own hands and make it happen. It’s your life. Lead it.
In my next post: “The Other Person’s Bill of Rights”.
Following that, I will post practical action steps and challenges of getting started, including how to say “NO”, assertiveness practices, and much more.
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