Turning other peoples’ problems away is a big weakness of mine. It is a topic we discussed on the assertiveness course I recently took. Many of the other participants felt the same way. They too were inclined to carry other peoples’ weight on their shoulders. Even when the burden grew to be too much, the fear and anxiety of betraying them or appearing to be selfish would stop them in their tracks.
The sense of feeling needed or wanted can immerse someone with their own issues into much deeper problems. Taking on your friends’ and family’s problems and attempting to resolve their dilemmas are too much to bear. I took on my family’s issues from an early age. My sister and I have both been our parents’ confidante at some point in our lives. She once enjoyed her position so much but eventually realised how unhealthy the whole process was. My mother (the problem teller) never saw it that way. Why would she?
I have, in the past, become the inevitable: a shoulder to cry on for almost anybody around. The want to please and be accepted takes over and personal boundaries are automatically crossed. To be seen as dependable and reliable is the desire, to go against it would be like betraying myself.
However, I am human and no human can live a life like that.
The problem is that when you finally decide enough is enough and you want to please yourself from now on, the people you have been there for at their beck and call, well they don’t like the new you. They don’t like change and resentment begins to build. Questions form on how your existing relationship was originally defined. How did you so easily accept the role of adviser and life coach?
The only life you should be coaching is your own.
If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.
You and I have the right to:
- put my needs first – there are times in our lives where we have every right to be selfish. It is our life after all. It is essential that we have concerns and care for ourselves. Within reason, we need to be selfish in order to be happy.
- be treated with respect – I spend most of my time worrying about how I treat everyone else that I forget I deserve the same treatment. For years I feared my father who demanded constant respect. I associated the word with him and that there was no justification for me to get it. I know now that I deserve it too, I deserved it all along. Respect is a basic right.
- express my feelings whatever they may be – Anger, hurt, sadness, fear, happiness: I have the right to feel these things and not have to justify them when I do.
- say NO – If and when I need to, this is an essential right for me, one that I am only just getting to grips with, one that will take more time to develop but one that I hope will strengthen in me. Someone called me a “walkover” recently. It hurt me. I am not a walkover or a pushover. I have a soul and I have rights and I do not appreciate being perceived in that way.
- have opinions and values – they count. They are relevant and as important as yours. They are mine and should not be dismissed at any whim. I am a woman with a mind. Accept it.
- not take on other people’s problems – A very significant right. At times, we want to and will be there for others. That may be part of our character but like anything else, we have rights to refuse this when it becomes too much. Mentally, there is only so much a person can take on. Other people’s problem bring a new stress into our lives, we worry and fear for them, we become consumed by their issues often neglecting our own. It seems selfish and unkind but this is not a right that we demand constantly. I have spent hours listening to the trials and despairs of my family wishing they’d factor in that I have problems too. They didn’t and I was left dealing with theirs, feeding them advice and becoming a confidante to them. A position I was so desperate not to be.
- make mistakes – it’s okay to be wrong. It happens. I have the right to be wrong. Do not punish me because I am not perfect. No is.
Not even you.
Get up, stand up, Stand up for your rights. Get up, stand up, Don’t give up the fight.
Possibly. Maybe? Perhaps not as much as I would like to be but – I’ll get there!
I have learnt a lot about assertive behaviour over the past few weeks. I see it appearing within myself and then fading into oblivion when I feel like I’ve taken on too much. I want to change and become more assertive but it seems like a daunting task. Over the past week, on the few occasions I’ve put it into practice, it hasn’t totally gone to plan.
In one situation, with a family member, it went completely awry and blew up in my face. One thing our tutor mentioned, was that the people we know may respond negatively to the fact that we are changing. They may not like the new assertive and confident person we are turning into. They are far too use to us being passive, obedient and subservient. It is too much for them to undertake or comprehend and their frustration is bound to come out. Which it did in my case. A rather loud and heated argument followed with me letting rip. Sick of pushing my anger and emotions to one side, I let a little leave me and I did not apologise nor feel guilty after. Within reason we all have the right to feel anger – appropriately of course. I think I will choose my words more carefully next time. However, I do not plan to stop being assertive.
This is a new me.
A confident, open and clear me. One who can ask for what she wants, accepts criticism, feel anger without being judged, feel she has human rights and can say ‘No’ without fear of letting someone down.
She isn’t here yet and I’ve never seen her in me before but I hope, I really hope that I can find her.