This is a very hard one: a challenge women face everyday, no matter where they live and who they are. Every woman I know seems to be always saying yes when she means no. Women have been programmed to meet everyone else’s needs leaving their own unattended. It is nothing we are doing wrong, or something we do to ourselves. It is just the way it has been and is for so many of us. It’s time to toss that concept, don’t you think?
At this stage of my life, I feel I owe myself more time, more dedication, more care. Don’t you feel the same way? There is nothing wrong with that, no matter how badly we feel about it. Consequently, we need to start becoming assertive.
Now, that is a tricky word. This is how Collins English Dictionary defines it:
2. given to making assertions or bold demands; dogmatic or aggressive
You can imagine……more than a few of us would have a problem with this. We do not want to appear too bold or aggressive, or too set in our ways. Absolutely out of the question! Even worse, we do not want to rock the boat and put our family, friends or co-workers on the defensive. An absolute conundrum, isn’t it? Until we carefully listen and weight the alternative: giving in, agreeing to things we don’t want to do, adding more stress to our lives and who knows what else. Oh, no!!!
So let’s start with a simple fact: No is a complete sentence. It might be the shortest sentence in any language, but a sentence it is, trust me! As someone said: it doesn’t require justification or explanation. Of course, some will tell me that we also need to be polite. If you feel this way, add something like: No, I have commitments or No, I am very busy at the moment. Use your judgement.
Throughout our lives, we have been so conditioned to try to please everyone, to keep the peace, to be agreeable and understanding that we have forgotten to set boundaries. Yes, you read right. We may have to consider assertiveness a challenge, but boundaries are essential to our well-being!
Setting boundaries can be stressful and can take time. Like anything else in life, we need to approach this with full knowledge that we can loose friends, upset family members, make our co-workers suspicious. You are going to be changing the way the game has been played and most people are not good at change. It comes with the territory, so don’t fret.
First things, first: what bothers you most? what stresses you more often? Be truthful, it’s the only way. Family is usually the biggest culprit. You are always available, always there for them and this is exhausting! Start with simple things: it’s your yoga lesson night, dinner will be whatever they prepare. It’s a movie you really do not want to see, stand firm in saying you rather stay home and read. Most families will be understanding, but there will be the ones that would not accept the new you easily. Just keep at it!
Our friends are up there too. Toxic friendships, a term that is now everywhere, can drag you down and make your life stressful. These friendships are not good for us, but it is very hard to break a pattern. We all know them: the friend that needs constant advise, the one that needs a shoulder to cry on. Ask yourselves, are they there for you in the same circumstances? No?, then you have to start setting those boundaries. Real friendship will survive them, if not…..good riddance!
Finally, our co-workers….in these times when financial uncertainty is a reality we will be tempted to shy away from saying NO. That would a mistake, unless you think your job is at risk. If not, use the same idea. Start small: No, I can’t do this for you today, I have a lot on my plate or No, I will not be able to stay after hours today, I have an appointment. The ones that will get the message are the ones worth having a work relationship with, you’ll see.
This exercise will lead us to a very important place: a place where we respect and like ourselves. So, by all means be assertive, learn to say NO!!!