The idea for this post came yesterday as I was over at my Nanny’s visiting with my older sister Sherri and her almost-10-year-old boy Matthew. We were discussing about her middle daughter (my niece Grace) and how she is not good at being assertive and standing up for herself. I could relate, and my Mom said that I get this for her, which is true. I’ve never been good at being assertive OR standing up for myself, although I believe I am better at it at the age of 29 than I was as a child. It’s hard for me to speak up and tell someone they are doing something wrong. It’s hard for me to stand up to authority and say that I do not agree. I shy away from this. When I was younger, I would say the main reason was being shy. Being bullied in front of authority that did nothing probably did not help at all, either. If the ones who you are supposed to turn to just ignore things, then what good is it to say anything? No one will take me seriously, right?
As I have grown up, I have tried to stand up more and speak up more, but I still fall short of where I SHOULD be. I don’t consider shyness a reason anymore. Nowadays, I believe avoiding conflict and caring too much about what others think are the two main culprits. They also happen to go hand in hand if you stop and think about it. I HATE dealing with conflict. There has been a lot of conflict in my life, and I prefer to avoid it as much as possible at all costs. I KNOW I get this from my Mom. All my life, I have seen her steer clear of rocking the boat. If her food arrives burned to her table at a restaurant, she will just sit there and eat it while telling us how burned it is. If we tell her to tell the waiter, she would say, “No”…she did not want to cause problems. So…it just figures that I would have the same attitude in regards to things. In the same situation, I would probably tell the waiter, but while telling them, I would apologize for making them take my plate back. Now, thinking about that, I shake my head at myself. Why would I need to apologize for the cook’s mistake? I wouldn’t, but that’s the way my mind tends to work in these situations. I avoid asking the tough questions to those in authority because I worry about seeming rude. I worry that by saying or asking the wrong things I will cause conflict. I worry so much about this perceived conflict that things MAY cause that I let things slip by, I let people take advantage, and I end up feeling lost and confused.
Have you ever heard those stories where someone is working somewhere, comes up with an idea and someone else steals it and gets credit for it? Well, while this has YET to happen to me, let’s just say that I would be the one to get my idea stolen and probably wouldn’t say anything for fear of conflict. That’s not good, is it? 😦 Nope…it isn’t.
The one exception to the rule is probably within my family. I am more likely to speak up with family that I have been around my whole life. Maybe because I am just so used to them. In fact, I used to have a problem with speaking up too much in my family. Now, I think I have a good healthy medium. I try to speak up when it matters the most, but try not to exacerbate matters. I try to walk away, if need be, rather than causing TOO much conflict or just agree to disagree with people. But within my family, it’s more about just making sure nothing gets said that is so bad you can never take it back, you know? Making sure you speak up, but tactfully, if at all possible.
This need to avoid conflict really DOES go along with caring too much about what people think of me. I TRY so hard to not care, but by shying away from speaking up so many times, I am obviously giving off a persona of a quiet girl who hides off in the corner, tries to be independent more than she actually is, and shies away from doing or saying anything that might cause someone to think I have a mind of my own, right? This is not who I am….but I obviously care TOO much that someone might think I am rude or a trouble maker or even stupid….All these thoughts run in my head when I think about speaking up.
I would like to change this. I would LOVE to be more assertive. I would LOVE to change my viewpoints where when I AM assertive, I don’t feel like I am bothering people or have to apologize for it. Does anyone else struggle with this same problem? Or better yet, has anyone overcome this and have some tips for me? I really think this is an issue I need to put work into overcoming for the betterment of myself.