Being assertive is important for self-esteem. I met with my psychiatrist (Dr. Dreamy) last Friday. He suggested that I work on being more assertive in order to boost my self-esteem. He thinks in order to do this, I would benefit from regular talk therapy. Regular means once a week. I was doing this and it was covered by provincial health care, but you get a limited number of sessions, then you have to wait six months before you can go back. I’m on the six month waiting period now. I could go private and pay to see a psychologist once a week, but that’s not in the budget right now. The last time I did that, it was $130.00 per hour! That was a few years ago now, so I can only imagine what it must cost now. I explained all of this to Dr. Dreamy and we worked out a solution. I will see him every one to two months to talk things out, otherwise, I will read what he recommends and sort it out myself. It’s not ideal, but seeing as I’m an academic, reading and sorting it out myself is supposed to be my forte. So until I see Dr. Dreamy again in June, I am reading about self-esteem and how to be more assertive.
Being assertive is a way of acting that strikes a balance between being aggressive and submissive. I think aggressive is probably one of the last words someone would use to describe me, so I must be more on the submissive side. If you are submissive you end up doing a lot of things you don’t want to do which can create resentment, then tension and then open conflict. That sounds like me…except for the open conflict part. I guess I keep it bottled up, which only hurts me in the end. Here are some characteristics of submissive behaviour…
- Discounting your own rights and/or needs
- Not expressing your feelings
- Feeling guilty or like you are imposing when asking for a favour
- Overly invested in being nice and pleasing people
And the characteristics of assertive behaviour…
- Simple and direct communication without attacking or manipulating
- Standing up for yourself and your rights without feeling guilty
- Communication of feelings honestly while maintaining respect for others
The list of submissive behaviours totally sounds like me in a lot of situations, especially at work and with authority figures. By not expressing my feelings, people (like my supervisor) are ignorant of my wants and needs. How can I expect my supervisor to recognize how overwhelmed I am if I don’t tell her?
So how can I be more assertive? I need to work on those three points I listed above. I think I’m alright at the first one. I stay calm when speaking to people, I maintain eye contact and an open posture. I know that it is important to use “I” statements rather than “you” statements. “You” statements come off as threatening or like you are setting blame. If I were to talk to my supervisor it would be better to say “I am feeling overwhelmed”, rather than “you are giving me an impossible amount of work to keep up with”.
I do have to work on communicating how I feel and not feeling guilty about it though. I often feel ambivalent about my wants and needs. I think that is part of the problem. I need to sit down and really think about what they are instead of just going with the flow. Maybe that’ll be another post.