Although this topic deals with boundaries, it is a lesser concern than assertiveness. One cannot set boundaries if one does not have a firm hold of assertion in the first place. We would all like to be assertive and we often admire those who can do it while still being graceful and gracious (which is not all hard to do). It starts from a place of knowing you have a right to defend yourself but also knowing how to pick your battles. Not everything is worth fighting for and sometimes losing a few wars does not in any way mean that you have lost the battle. So next time you want to assert yourself ask yourself if it is worth the cost? Sometimes it can end a relationship or a job and that is not always something that you will want to do.
On the other hand, you cannot walk around being everyone’s welcome mat. People will never take you seriously much less respect you. You will soon lose your own respect. Women always get told that when we are being assertive that we are simply being aggressive. Ladies, kindly remove that word from your vocabulary because it does you know good and it is a lie that men want you to think. What is good for the goose is as sweet and delicious for the gander – so do partake! When being referred to that chauvinistic word, stop it immediately. Continue asserting your rights but be truly clear to the person that you will not be demeaned in any way just because you feel that you have a right to your needs, because (girlfriend) you do.
The issues that will be discussed on this topic are assertiveness; boundaries; communication; expectations; listening; and learning to differentiate what to fight for; and always self-care. Asserting oneself might start as taking baby steps but as they say, the beginning of any journey takes one step so do not expect yourself to become a master of assertiveness in one day. It will take time. And you will find resistance. Resistance from yourself as well as from other people who like you just the way you are, the doormat that takes anything and everything from anyone without uttering a word. But you can do it. Practice makes perfect and the sooner you begin this journey, the sooner you can expect results.
The act of asserting yourself has been defined as a way of clear communication of your needs, rights, and wants without offending or disrespecting the other person. This is done by first being able to figure out what you are rights are and has been discussed in other issues, but I am going to repeat them at any rate:
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO
- Be responsible for your own actions
- To be treated with respect
- To be allowed to make mistakes
- To be permitted to be yourself
- Allowed to express your thoughts, feelings, and opinions
- Have the right to know
- Have the right to change your mind
- Have the right to say ‘no’ without feeling bad
- Have the right to not understand
- Have the right to ask why and why not
- Have the right to not know
- Have the right to ask for help
- Have the right to be allowed to think your opinions
- Have the right have your needs to be equally important as others
With this knowledge, the addict knows at least has a basis of knowledge of when he is fighting an unnecessary uphill battle or when he is allowing himself to be used and manipulated unfairly, and to a certain degree willingly. Learning how to be assertive means that taking all of these rights into consideration that the next time someone, for example, is insisting that you should know something despite you really not understanding that this would be the time to tell them without any trepidation that you do not. And the conversation can either be continued in a way where the person explains himself more clearly or the conversation can stop because the person will not explain himself in a way where the information can be digested.
One needs to have a certain amount of confidence to be assertive. This is to be able to express yourself with self-assurance but to avoid speaking without coming off arrogant as some people who think they are being assertive do. There are far too many people in the limelight or who have been put on pedestals who we are told are being assertive. People would like to think that certain people are being assertive because they fight for what they believe in, however, being assertive has nothing to do with fighting. In fact, it is a conflict that assertive behavior avoids because genuine assertive people are looking for solutions as opposed to creating problems or drama.
One must be responsible for their actions which means if one chooses to express their anger (which is a right I deliberately did not add because it can be so easily misinterpreted). However, if one is going to express this emotion this does not give them the benefit to throw things around, hurl out ugly language, call the other person a ‘b***h’ or any other derogatory word, etc. One can express anger firmly by stating what they find is wrong in the situation, why they feel wronged, and that they feel that they should be righted or expect an apology. Warning: Apologies and actions being right may or may not happen and there is nothing that can be done about it. However, if the person feels that they should get an apology or just amendments and not have them done, that person must accept this as it is and move on from the situation without creating more drama. This may include ending a friendship, relationship, or perhaps resigning from their work.
A person needs a healthy lesson in assertiveness if for too long she has been passive, aggressive, or perhaps worse passive-aggressive. Being passive made it all too easy for other people to bully her into doing things she did not want to do, overextend her energies doing work for others which eventually created her codependency behavior, or put up with enmeshment since she permitted everyone especially her family and friends to create her own opinions. Aggressive behavior is no better because now the addict has become the bully who imposes his rights on others, expresses his anger violently, feels that he has no responsibility for his actions, and fights with everyone for everything he feels that he is entitled to no matter the consequences.
Passive-aggression is a sad case of affairs because the addict feels bottled up with the rights that she feels she has but has no clear way of knowing how to get them so instead of admitting that she does not have the answer, refuses to say ‘no’ no matter how much she wants to, or feels that she has the right to change the mind; her tactics are to swallow up the abuse for a limited amount the time than act out emotionally abusing those around her with the silent treatment, screaming at innocent victims, creating disharmony, stealing, lying, or doing whatever it takes to make herself feel better. However, there are consequences for all these behaviors and most of them will come back to haunt her later which now causes more anger and because she is passive-aggressive, she cannot express her anger appropriately, so she falls back on the very actions that caused the consequences and so the cycle and self-inflicted pain continues