Since our birth we are trained by our mothers not to cry on our pains; mostly because it’s too painful for them to see us expressing our pain. A mother – out of her love – goes to every limit to distract us from feeling of pain and our right to express it. As we grow up, parents/ society teach us that we have to please everyone around us and give priority to others’ feelings and needs over our own. A child who conforms to the norms taught by the parents and expresses needs, desires and ideas within the limit is equated with an angel. Everyone around us makes sure that we do not pay attention to the person inside us. They train us to chock its mouth even before it could start speaking properly. We grow up with this belief that we do not have choice; choice to express our opinion, choice to say no to things that we do not want to do or accept. Saying “NO” and considering our own choice is disobeying and disrespecting others and is the biggest sin.
Most of us become successful in sedating the person inside us. They then do not have their own opinion, choices or wishes. Some of us could not properly sedate that person and experience conflict between the inner voice/ feeling and learned norms about rights and wrongs. Among these people very few know the importance of inner person and hence unlearn the lesson from the society and start listening to and act according to that person. In this journey one unlearns various paradigms and then thinks afresh about expressing the inner self. This practice leads one to learn the art of assertiveness.
As a matter of fact assertiveness is not just a skill; it is a mind-set. It is the ability to show the world who you really are: ‘your’ likes and dislikes, ‘your’ thoughts, feelings, and short comings. It helps us to learn how to say yes or no when we want to; it’s the freedom to be yourself in all circumstances. It helps us to respect ourselves and others.
Assertiveness can be difficult to learn because living is more of an emotional issue than a rational one – both for the aggressive and for the passive person. It is a matter of unlearning certain misconceptions and learning another way of looking at yourself and others. As we become more assertive, we drop the mask and show our true selves. We proclaim: “This is who I am, this is what I feel, and these are my needs.” If your parents were rigid and controlling, then you may have felt invalidated so much as a child that now you are afraid to speak up. If you were taught that it is good manners to be focused on the other person and not on yourself, then you may feel that it is not okay for you to ask for what you want. There are countless barriers that hinder our way to be ourselves.
To become more open, honest and assertive, begin by recognizing distorted beliefs. Honestly put down your beliefs about yourself and the world. Then objectively decide whether they are reasonable and helpful or not. A healthy belief system looks at the world from the point of view that you are a valuable, worthwhile person, and accepts the fact that others are too. We all react to our interpretations of reality, not to reality as it is. These interpretations carry the burden of our assumptions, emotional positions, intellectual habits, popular ideas, deep rooted fears and longings. Our beliefs come from our experiences, they are learned or they are taught to us. Belief behind assertiveness is that I decide for myself that what I will and will not do. I am my own judge. I do not have to justify myself to others and others do not have to justify themselves to me. People can ask me anything they want. My life is my own, and I can turn down requests made by others if I wish. Others can give me advice but they do not have right to make my decision.
Assertiveness is meant to improve our relationship with our self and with others too. As a result we might expect everyone around us to be very enthusiastic when we become very assertive. Well, do not count on it. People in your life have become accustomed to your style of communication and the way you are. If you are usually aggressive / passive, they have come to expect you to be aggressive/ passive. They may not like your styles but they are used to it. People around you have learned to interpret your behavior according to your previous style. Do not blame others for expecting passivity or aggression from you – especially if you were the one to create those expectations. Our society has some beliefs which it imparts to us. Some basic beliefs are, only powerful, beautiful and intelligent people are allowed to express their views; people are unreliable, eventually abusing your trust. A woman’s main role in life is to cater to the needs of others; people only take you seriously if you are more powerful than they are. Therefore, expect resistance when you assume control over your own life. Give them time to register and understand your new communication style, in which you will express your true feelings and opinion.
Not only society is tuned in a certain manner but our body too. Our stress response determines the kind of relationship we make with ourselves and with others. To deal with this response system you first have to understand the nature of stress and the ways you manage it. Stress is bodily reaction to the perceived threat. And we have historically learned to respond to stress in one of the two ways i.e. fight as hard as you can or run away as fast as you can. For that you need to review your appraisal for the situation and evaluate if the stress is perceived or real. Based upon your evaluation, learn a new way to change your reactions into responses. Before reacting to any conflicting situation take some time. Let your amygdala switch off and pre-frontal cortex in charge so that you can intelligently evaluate the conflict and respond to it. This will help you to consider what you actually want. Your will start feeling control in your life. We must understand and teach others especially girls that if they speak their mind, they can create the world they want to see.