I despise it when people tell me I’m not assertive, it’s a huge pet peeve of mine. The reasons are because it’s something I need to improve upon and I don’t know the appropriate times when to assert myself. There are times I’ve been assertive and I’ve been hit with defensive reactions and there are times I wasn’t assertive and it kicked me in the ass.
An example when I was assertive and the outcome sucked was when I texted my roommate that she needed to help me clean our college apartment. She got defensive and started pinpointing that I didn’t clean my hair that was on our bathroom floor and that she cleaned up her own messes. In that context, we had different methods of what cleaning meant. She believed that we cleaned up our own messes, while I believed we clean up a mess in general whether or not its our own mess. I didn’t realize this until a few years after we finished college.
An example when I wasn’t assertive and it annoyed the shit out of me was during my student teaching. I felt I wasn’t receiving opportunities to practice teaching but I felt embarrassed telling my university supervisor because I didn’t want to get my master teacher in trouble. Guess what! Not explaining my issues earlier to my university supervisor resulted in a snowball effect in which I now have to restart student teaching from the beginning.
I’ve been less assertive than I have been assertive, which is a problem. I remember one time I was at a party and my friend left me to hook up with a girl. I wanted to go with him because we came together, but I didn’t want to burden myself as a third wheel. Instead, I ended up walking late at night along Golden Gate Park while crossfaded. Fortunately, I arrived safely to my dorm room. Looking back, I could have been assaulted, kidnapped, or killed. I’m really lucky I wasn’t. Other situations included being with the opposite sex. I remember I went a date with this employment lawyer and we went to his house. I remember feeling uncomfortable and thinking that I shouldn’t go, but I didn’t want to appear impolite. We were on the sofa watching a really bad film and he tried making a move on me. It failed miserably because I kept looking to the other side every time he tried to kiss me. Fortunately, I wasn’t assaulted or killed. He called a taxi and I went back to my dorm room safely. There were many similar situations like that in college where I walked into a lion’s den but I came out fine. Sometimes I feel some sort of survivors’ guilt because other girls in similar situations didn’t come out as fine.
My lack of assertiveness has caused me resentment and much frustration, especially when it comes to love and friendships. In my relationship with Mr. Schedenfreude, I had a hard time standing up for myself because the gaslighting and fighting wore me down. I thought to be passive would keep the peace, but it didn’t, it caused me to build up anger and resentment. In high school and in my early twenties, I struggled in joining conversations with my friends because I didn’t know the appropriate time when to start talking. Instead, I just listened even though there were topics I could have joined in on, but I wanted to appear polite. Listening and not adding on to the conversation caused me to get bored during group interactions and made me want to leave early. It wasn’t until Mr. Squigglekins and I got into a fight about me complaining of being left out during group conversations that he told me I wasn’t assertive enough. After that fight, I started participating more in group conversations and enjoying myself.
I can pinpoint reasons why I lack assertiveness. One is the societal pressure for females to not appear aggressive but polite, unlike the male counterparts. Second, I have severe anxiety and I don’t want to embarrass myself in front of others. Third, I dislike negative reactions, but it happens whether or not an individual is assertive or not. Last, I just want people to like me so I do things that make me uncomfortable so they are comfortable. It’s part of a codependency thing that I have.
It hits my ego big time when people say I’m not assertive. It’s a weakness of mine but I’m practicing on being assertive with any opportunity that I have such as joining in on group discussions, telling people how I feel and communicating my needs. It’s important for me and others to be assertive because it prevents frustration and resentment.
Photo Courtesy: Chris & Karen Highland, “Consumer Confidence,” (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode) via Flickr.