Since my last post I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and reflecting, about life and my general presence on this here earth, and one thing I’ve realised is that currently I am the least assertive and decisive I have ever been in my 20 years of existence. I don’t remember a time that I could confidently say which restaurant I want to eat at; I have completely recoiled into myself and you’ll be happy to know that I am now aware, and very sick of it (my friends and family cheer in the background having suffered through my indecisiveness for many years). I’ve been doing a bit of research on how to change and live a more decisive life, and I thought I’d share my findings. Let’s go on this journey together, shall we?
A lack of assertiveness and decisiveness stems from passive/submissive behaviour; passive behaviour is where you don’t express your feelings, opinions/needs and let others get their way in order to avoid upsetting those around you. This type of behaviour is associated with those who are feeling unappreciated, have low self-esteem, depression and social anxiety. People that are feeling like this tend to let others decide what is best for them instead of voicing it themselves.
When you are a passive person you allow people to violate your personal rights. When you express your thoughts and opinions you do so in a self-effacing way, meaning that those around you find it easy to disregard them and this can often lead to a feeling of being used and feeling inferior. Many, if not all, passive people have the misconception that by practising assertive behaviour they are hurting other’s feelings.
So, how do you begin to change?
When you have been in a particular behaviour for such a long time, you become accustomed to it. Identifying and becoming aware of the general behaviour of a passive/submissive person is essentially the first step. Admitting and taking ownership of it is assertive in itself, you are allowing yourself to the personal change. It’s important to remember that being assertive is not uncaring, nor does it come across as arrogant. It is simply validly expressing yourself as you are allowed to do so.
A fundamental part of becoming more assertive is believing – you must believe that you and your beliefs matter. As low self-esteem is common in those that are passive, believing can be especially difficult; some find it useful to either write down or say out loud confident statements to help build on this.
Passive people often find “I” statements difficult as it brings the attention onto them, they become the focus of that moment and this feeling can be very uncomfortable. Using “I’ more often in conversation is the simplest form of becoming more assertive, for example: “I would like a cup of tea”, “I don’t like this song” or “I want to go into that shop”. You begin to take responsibility of your own thoughts and opinions instead of being influenced by the people around you.
Becoming assertive isn’t going to happen over night, it takes practise. The easiest way to practise is when you’re alone; get used to saying confident and decisive statements out loud so when you’re met with these situations in real life, you are more comfortable and they won’t be such a struggle. Start small and work your way up.
The last thing that I want is for this post, and the things I’ve written, to come across like I know what I’m talking about, because alas, I don’t. As I said in the beginning I am currently the least assertive I have ever been; I become riddled with cringe anytime I am faced with a situation in which I need to make a decision or take charge – I would do anything to take the focus away. Why can’t you just say what you want, Aoife? It’s not difficult, just get a grip! The tiny voice in my head mocks my inability to do the simplest of things, changing my overwhelming cringe into sheer frustration with myself.
I began writing all of the above to get a better understanding of why I get like this, and have now decided to send it off into the internet void for two reasons – 1) as a physical confirmation that I am going to stick to it and work on it for my own sake and 2) that it helps one of you lovely folk. As I said, it’s a journey, let’s go on this together.
Keep shining, see you next time