Have you ever felt as though you were a human doormat? Has your self-esteem and self-confidence ever been so low that you began to believe the negative things people would say to you or about you? Are you a People Pleaser? Does fear of hurting someone’s feelings keep you from communicating in a way that ensures your rights, needs and personal boundaries are respected?
Were you abused as a child in some way? Did fear of physical abuse cause you to grow up without the ability to express your true feelings and needs to those you come in contact with? Have you ever been in an abusive relationship or been married to an abuser?
If you answer Yes to any of the above questions, it’s time we have a chat about learning how to be assertive, how to change your negative self-talk, understanding assertiveness and developing the communication skills needed in order to be shown the respect you rightly deserve.
A Bit of Background First
Anyone who has followed this blog from its inception knows that I was brought up in a controlling and abusive home, where various forms of “punishment” often left me and my brothers battered and bruised, feeling as though no one in the world really cared about me, especially my own family. Ironically, I also grew up in a “religion” that added weight to the controlling and abusive tendencies I suffered as a child, with religious teachings being used as a weapon to keep me and other members of the church organization feeling threatened and afraid of leaving the religion or my marriage. But not anymore.
I got married for the first time at the ripe old age of seventeen, thinking and believing that Mr. Wonderful had come to rescue me into a life of marital bliss free of abuse, only to become a victim of domestic abuse after only six months of marriage. Children that are abused often grow up to marry an abuser no matter how hard they try to avoid it, unable to see the signs of abusive relationships until it is too late. Add to it the religious pressures to conform, and you have yourself a very serious situation on your hands, just as I did. But not anymore.
For me to say that I understand what it means to have low self-esteem, feeling as though your thoughts, feelings, wishes, dreams and desires don’t matter one little bit to anyone, is because I DO understand. I used to that person. But I’m not anymore. I’m here to explain to you how I changed my negative self-talk to become an assertive, self-confident (not aggressive) person, and how you too can and need to learn how to be assertive, and how being assertive greatly improves your personal and professional relationships.
Your Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence Matters
Regardless of how you developed such a low level of self-esteem, that you are often too afraid to speak up for yourself, you have the power within you to change it. I’m not going to suggest that it’s an easy thing to do, because it takes a lot of effort and determination to put aside the negative self-image, but it is doable. I’m living proof. If I can do it, so can you!
One of the most important, and possibly one of the most difficult things to do in changing your negative self-talk and developing assertive communication, is the need to let go of the past. Hanging onto the past, as opposed to letting go of built-up resentments and pain, staying in a victim state of mind, does nothing but keep you spinning in never-ending circles.
Assertive Communication Skills
After many years spent researching different forms of communication styles, it would be pretty easy for me to discuss the three basic forms of communication:
However, I prefer to leave discussions about passive and aggressive communication styles to those with the college degree and experience in mental health to handle. It’s important to understand that assertiveness and aggressiveness are NOT the same thing but are often referred to as being one and the same.
Understanding Assertiveness and You
Assertive communication is the ability to speak and interact in a manner that considers and respects the rights and opinions of others while also standing up for your own rights, needs and personal boundaries.
To be assertive, you must learn to use “I” phrases to express your feelings and beliefs in a straight-forward and respectful manner with those you communicate with, while also respecting the right of others to have a different opinion or viewpoint.
- “I” feel we need to… x,y,z.
- “I” need you to… x,y,z.
- “I” want to… x,y,z.
- “I” feel hurt when you… x,y,z
Dealing with difficult people professionally or personally (or even with those we meet online), can often be challenging. Many people believe they have the right to be downright blunt and harsh in how they communicate with others, but by using assertive communication techniques when dealing with such people, we can maintain our personal boundaries in how we will or will not be treated by others, and at the same time show respect towards others (even if their behavior may not seem so deserving).
Do you have a personal experience with learning how to be assertive to share? Are you struggling to find your own voice in speaking up for yourself? Do you have suggestions for people still battling with self-esteem issues? Please consider sharing your thoughts by leaving a relevant comment below for our readers. With all due respect that is.