I am generally terrible at being assertive. My lack of self-confidence makes it difficult to push myself outside of my comfort zone and toward other people. Because of this, it’s been difficult for me to ‘ring my own bell,’ so to speak. There is so much more I could be doing in this world – for myself, as well as others – if I would just push a little more.
First and most importantly, I am not talking about being aggressive. For those in the back… I am not talking about being aggressive. Many people (for whatever reason) cannot comprehend the difference between assertiveness and aggression. Let’s clear this up. Aggression is pushing past the boundaries of others. It consists of making people uncomfortable, being unnecessarily harsh or rude, and generally thriving on conflict. Assertiveness has to do with an attitude of confidence. It means standing up for yourself and others, being direct, making your voice heard, and still maintaining respect for others and yourself.
With that said, being assertive is such an important asset. It has plenty of benefits – not only in your life, but also for your mental and physical health! Assertiveness gives you a definite boost in your confidence, which opens up opportunities in life. How much easier would it be to land that huge project at work if you were able to directly tell your boss, “I can do this” – and you believe it? Being assertive is also great for reducing your anxiety levels (which tends to bring down the accompanying increased blood pressure and heart rate) and gives you a feeling of being calm and in control.
By now you’re thinking, “This all sounds great but how on earth can I start this now? I’m set in my ways at this point in my life.” Well, no one ever said change was easy. In fact, if anyone has told you that, they lied. Change is definitely difficult but it’s not impossible. Here are a few pointers on becoming more assertive in your life from Randy Paterson, PhD, a registered psychologist and author of The Assertiveness Workbook: How to Express Your Ideas and Stand Up for Yourself at Work and in Your Relationships:
- Learn to say no. Saying no will help you build and maintain your boundaries. It’s healthy to say no; it helps you keep your priorities in check and not spread yourself too thin.
- A closed mouth doesn’t get fed. Personally, my favorite part of assertiveness is being direct. People are not mind readers and without expressing your needs and desires, you will never get them. There’s no room for misinterpretation or uncertainty on anyone’s part as long as you are straight forward.
- Take baby steps. Practice a bit before jumping into the deep end. We all need to ease our way into new situations – especially if we want to increase our chances of success.
You can also find a lengthy list of books available on why assertiveness is important and how to build it, as well as contacting a clinical psychologist to help you figure out where to start. Go on, see where being assertive can take you!