Assertiveness, to me, means the freedom to choose when to say yes and to say no. In this series of 5 articles, I will share the journey and lessons of how I shed my social anxieties and moved to become more assertive. I hope that this journey inspires you and provides guidance on how to be assertive.
Step 1: Recognise The Impact Of Our Upbringing
Like most people of my age (I was born in 1986), I was raised by parents who are driven by “shoulds”. Their parents taught them they should know everything, and it was essential to be an authority over their children. With this mindset, my parents told me what I should with life, and I had to obey.
As I grew into an adult, I could not rely on our parents anymore. I found myself not knowing what I should do as my parents had always been my source of knowledge. Like many others, my upbringing did not give me the skills and strength to be assertive. The result of being raised in a culture of obedience is that people become too passive or too aggressive.
Step 2: Develop Inner Strength
Without a sense of direction, knowing what is right and wrong for me was impossible. To complicate matters, everyone has an opinion about everything, not to mention the fact that some prey on the confused. Without a healthy inner core, I found myself weak and underpowered.
During my secondary school, I allowed myself to become prey for bullies. Unfortunately, some think that teasing a person is a sport. For a year and a half, I faced continuous humiliation that brought my self-esteem to the floor. When we lose our inner core, not only are we not assertive, but we end up being scared to act in any way or form.
Step 3: Take Responsibility For Your Assertiveness
My assertiveness hit rock bottom when I was 16. A person I had met waved at me to say bye. I was so scared about everything that I didn’t know what to do. So I did nothing. Thank God that my father challenged me on it, or I would have been stuck forever in my fear. Although this sounds meaningless, it made me realise that I need to take responsibility for myself.
Today I can’t stop empathising with the youth who were raised by a generation of shoulds when the world is changing so fast. As the world moves more towards having an aversion to pain and an addiction to pleasure, our inner strength is eroding. We either become responsible for it, or we become prisoners.