Have you ever heard yourself say, “I am a nice person. I am a polite person. I’d never intentionally do anything to hurt anybody. So why don’t other people give me the respect I deserve?” I have long stopped doing that.
Apparently when you find yourself asking yourself these questions it could well be due to difficulty with assertiveness. You may not be showing your nice, polite, and respectful qualities to other people. Unless they can see who you truly are, underneath it all, other people might not know how you expect to be treated. And this can lead to some unhappy experiences.
At the heart of assertiveness is your ability to know who you are and what you stand for. Expressing yourself effectively involves maintaining respect for the rights and feelings of others. Assertion is not aggression.
People who are assertive know that they can deal with the world much more effectively if they do not resort to violence or other aggressive responses. In many ways, assertiveness is the exact opposite of aggression - assertion enhances constructive communication and cooperation between people, while aggression shuts it down. And assertion is not manipulation.
Most people are aware, at some level, when they are being manipulated - it can lead to distrust and a lack of respect, for both parties. Manipulation involves hiding behind a mask. Assertion means tearing off the mask and happily announcing to the world who you truly are. Assertion is reality-tested freedom.
We see instances of nonassertive behaviour around us everyday. Most people who lack an assertive style are simply those who want to keep the peace. For the most part, they want goodness and cooperation between people. However, they often pay a high price for this in terms of functioning effectively in the world.
There are many negative consequences associated with the nonassertive style. For example, those who are not assertive allow their feelings and boundaries to be violated by others.
They believe that they do not have the right to their own feelings, beliefs or opinions - and even if they do, they have difficulty in expressing them in a self-affirming way.
They may feel that asserting their thoughts will lead to rejection or even being attacked. They frequently feel that it is better to withhold their ideas rather than cause a conflict. Nonassertive people may feel guilty when they have to say “No.” They often allow others to make decisions for them and may assume that others will care for their needs. Nonassertive people are
Unfortunately, the consequences for choosing to be nonassertive are costly. People feel hurt and mistreated when their needs are not met - yet those who are nonassertive do little to meet these needs themselves. They may store up negative feelings and then harbour anger. Their sense of efficacy in the world is diminished, and then they complain about how unfair the world is to them. This approach toward the world may lead to depression, poor self-esteem, anxiety, isolation, and anger. I know many such people, grenades waiting to go off.
How you define yourself, positively or negatively, depends on the messages you’ve heard from others throughout your life. We internalise the things we’ve heard about ourselves from other people, and this becomes the basis of our self-esteem, which can be either mostly positive or mostly negative. If we see ourselves in a negative light, we may feel that we are not worthy of speaking up for what we want - and this can lead to nonassertion as a lifestyle.
People who work on their assertiveness skills have to look deeply within to assess their self-esteem and see what they can do to create a more positive definition of themselves. They find things about themselves that they like.
They might practise saying affirmations to themselves (affirmations are sayings, such as “I like myself more and more each day”) until they become a reality and replace the old negative messages they may have heard during their lives. They may have conversations with people in which they talk about their positive qualities and maintain a positive tone throughout the conversation.
Turning an old legacy of negativity into a present sense of positive feelings takes some work, persistence, and motivation, but the rewards are enormous.
One day you realise that you like who you are. This does not imply that you are working toward conceit or a superior, condescending attitude - you are simply working to repair old negative messages that have held you back in the past. Assertion requires positive self-esteem.
Once you feel good about yourself, you can then go out into the world with a healthy sense of pride and assertively deal with the many experiences and people who come your way. (Learning Self- Therapy)