If you’re putting everyone above your own needs, you may need to teach yourself some level of assertiveness. Not taking care of yourself is similar to not standing up for yourself, and it can’t be good for anybody. Neither is being a people pleaser.
Your rights and feelings are just as important as other people’s – and their feelings and opinions are no less important than yours. Assertiveness is about valuing others and treating them fairly, hearing their opinions and sharing your own. Being assertive is about respecting mutual rights, and not resorting to manipulation, deceit or abuse. Learning how to stand up for yourself won’t destroy others’ rights. Assertiveness is having the self confidence to be yourself. We are often confronted with situations in which we must stand up for ourselves. The situation may involve a “friend” who continually borrows money. It may be a sister or brother who prevents us from studying by playing music too loudly. It may even involve dealing with a teacher who gave us, what we believe, is an incorrect grade in a test or project.
When facing such situations, there are generally three ways we may conduct ourselves: Non-assertively, aggressively and assertively.
The way we act at this time often plays a large role in the final outcome.
According to Dr. Jonathan Kandell, Psychologist and Counsellor in Stand Up for Yourself-Be Assertive!, “Non-assertiveness is a passive way of dealing with confrontive situations. This type of behavior often results in our allowing others to determine what happens in our lives, producing feelings of helplessness, loneliness, and poor self-concept. We may also be angry and depressed at letting others control us.”
Explaining further he said, “While aggression certainly expresses our displeasure with a situation, and we may even get our way, it does not show sufficient respect for the rights of others. They may feel devalued or humiliated by the experience and will likely lose respect for, and positive opinions of, us. Such outbursts often lead to feelings of guilt and frustration. Despite controlling the situation, we may have significantly harmed the relationship and may still not have made the other person understand our perspective.”
On assertiveness he said, “Assertiveness may be defined as expressing our own needs, wants and basic rights as a person without violating the rights of others. It involves open and honest interaction directed at the person to whom it is intended. Assertive behavior shows that we respect others and ourselves, and, in turn, elicits respect from others. It also promotes self-confidence, self-control, and feelings of positive self-worth.”
As the saying goes, “We teach people how to treat us.” If this is true, what then determines how we send signals and messages about us that we want others to receive? Denise O’Doherty a psychotherapist and nurse says we do this through personal boundaries both verbal and non-verbal. These are what define limits. They define where each of us begins and ends and let others know what is acceptable to us and what isn’t. If a boundary is healthy it is usually flexible, expandable, and sometimes impenetrable due to the situation.
Boundaries are crucial to our existence because they give us protection, to help confine and contain us, to define who we are, to help us maintain our sense of self and to help us make safe in connection with others.
According to her, “Sometimes our personality styles get in the way of expressing a healthy boundary. For example, a passive person who fears conflict or making others angry might not stand up for his/her self therefore having a weak or invisible boundary. This is a set up for disappointment since we can’t expect others to read our minds. An aggressive person who continually uses control, intimidation, manipulation and hostility may be expressing a rigid boundary keeping others at a distance. Like the passive person, this makes it difficult to have a healthy assertive relationship based on both people supporting the best interest of the other.
Offereing tips on how to establish healthy boundaries, she said, “You could learn to build you protective boundary by first overcoming shame (long standing feeling of not being worthy) and developing Self-Esteem. Then by knowing and talking about our reality and our feelings. When you have achieved this, try identifying and confronting abuse, things that hurt, scare, or shame you.
Other tip she suggests is, “Always say“NO”! when we don’t really want to do something and always ask for what you want and need.
Vital she says, is listening to and believing your partner’s responses to our stated wants and needs.
Psychologist, Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen, advises that you should always clarify what you want. Don’t retreat into silence or bully other people; rather tune into your wants and needs and make requests. Being assertive means being clear; learning how to stand up for yourself means being honest.
You should also learn to have your own opinion and feelings, as well as express them. Make decisions and change your mind when you have to. When you make mistakes, forgive yourself and learn from them.