Whether or not it’s true, I like to think that I am becoming more assertive. I know it’s only been one week since I started taking anxiety medication, but I swear my badass factor has already ticked up several notches.
I’m learning to see patterns in my behavior that are the manifestation of my people-pleasing mentality. Things such as saying yes when my mind and body are howling nooooooo, letting people drain me of time and energy, and not spending enough time doing what’s important to me.
Decisions that made me miserable (or rather, make me – because this journey is not nearly over!) were motivated by fear. Fear of being judged negatively is a big, sort of all-encompassing one; more specifically, fear of being seen as not nice, selfish, or stupid. Fear of losing friends is another. Fear of being the person who “caused” a problem or conflict, or worse – me being the problem itself!
I’ve spent a lot of life unwilling to accept that things could possibly be the fault of other people or factors that have nothing to do with me, and nothing to do with how “good” or “bad” of a person I am.
As a result, I have had, like many other passive sensitive people, an unfortunate tendency to attract narcissistic and downright irritating people into my life. More generally, I’ve tended to let things go rather than confront anyone after I’ve been offended or hurt. In fact, my conflict style is really easy to explain: I generally don’t get in conflicts at all! Because I keep quiet about how I feel!
Through noticing habits of mine that allow people to shape the way I spend my time or energy, I’ve started to make some progress in maintaining stronger boundaries and sticking up for myself. Here’s what I’ve learned:
1. The worst part about saying no is the dread you feel before you say no. Then you’ve said it and the ball’s in their field, and you feel better for making a choice that was good for you.
2. No one hates you when you ask them to be more considerate, or turn down their offers, or ask to reschedule things now and then. People understand, and doing what’s best for you only makes you a more desirable person.*
*People who DO decide they hate you or “punish” you with the cold shoulder or other passive aggressive behavior should raise red flags. One explanation of these types of people is that they’re emotionally stunted. This is something for another blog post. . .
3. The more time you devote to doing what you actually WANT to do or enjoy doing, the happier you’ll be.
4. When you decide to dictate more of your own schedule and preserve your time for things and people that matter, it becomes a lot clearer who really does matter, and who helps you enjoy a better quality life.
5. Finally, it becomes easier to see that it isn’t worth much to quantify parts of your life. You will think less along the lines of: I managed to see three friends this week, and get to the gym four times, and eat a home cooked meal three nights, etc. You can be happy whether you see five friends in a week or none, or whether you go for a run every day or every other day.
What matters is doing what you want to do when you want to do it. If that’s spending two hours every day alone reading, and it makes you happy, then that’s what you should do.
Within reason, of course. I understand there are things in life we just have to put up with. Ahem, like jobs. And sometimes commutes. And distant relatives. These are long-term problems to work out.
But we have a lot of power over little things. Life’s made up of little things. I’ve learned that taking the reins over the day-to-day stuff, the little stuff, makes you feel bigger – a badass, if you will.