I have officially learned how to be a bold, assertive woman. It wasn’t easy and it took me an entire year but it was totally worth it. In this process, I learned so much about myself and others—here are just a few of the lessons that came my way.
It’s harder than you’d think. I remember when I came up with this great idea to be a more assertive woman. My peers, coworkers, friends, and even family members were taking me for granted. I wasn’t exactly commanding respect but I knew I deserved it because everyone does, to an extent. I thought if I just took a stand for myself, people would recognize my assertiveness and respect it. It wasn’t quite that easy.
You can’t back down. Once you embark on this journey of assertiveness, you’re in it for the for the long haul. I remember thinking, “Well, I’ll just give in to this person this one time…” and that threatened to derail me. If you’re dealing with people who routinely disrespect you, you have to be wary. If you give an inch, they’ll take a mile.
There’s such a thing as too assertive. Commanding respect doesn’t equal treating others with disrespect. In the beginning of my journey, I had a hard time with this. I was trying to establish myself as an equal among those who didn’t view me that way. At times, I thought this meant I had to be overbearing in my assertiveness, maybe even a little mean. I behaved more like my 20-pound Boston Terrier asserting her dominance at the dog park than the 20-something assertive woman I was trying to become.
Some people won’t like the new you. When you go from doormat to self-assured in the blink of an eye like I did, people won’t always know how to react. Some will give you funny looks; others will start asking you if you feel okay. Then there are those who just won’t like you—I even had a friend tell me as much. Needless to say, we’re not very close anymore. I do wish I’d considered this possibility before trying to become more assertive. It wouldn’t have convinced me to rethink my plan, but I would’ve been more prepared for the reactions from others.
You’ll have doubts. Around the time I began losing some phony friends and earning some inquisitive looks from coworkers, I started to have doubts. I wanted this self-improvement project to enhance the quality of my life and at times, it felt like I was making matters worse. Still, I stuck with it. The first time I watched in awe as someone respected a boundary I set, I knew this journey was worth it.
It’ll get worse before it gets better. Much like a bruise, your journey to being the assertive woman you’ve always wanted to be will look like it’s getting worse before it gets much, much better. It doesn’t feel good to be disrespected and ironically, you’ll be disrespected more when you finally take a stand against it. I had a difficult time getting people to value me because I had set the standard so low already. However, it wasn’t impossible. Once people start recognizing your new boundaries, things will improve.
You’ll feel so much better about yourself. Even when I was pushing back against the influx of disrespect, I was happy—thrilled, even. I felt so much better about myself because I was actually taking a stand. Knowing that I wasn’t going to put up with people who didn’t value my opinions was enough to carry me through some of the very rude commentary thrown my way.
You’ll grow to love setting boundaries. Setting boundaries is a really healthy thing to do and one of the best parts about becoming more assertive. Not all boundaries need to be spoken aloud, either. For example, I stopped replying to text messages from coworkers about work-related issues after working hours. It stressed me out to constantly talk about work. I didn’t tell my coworkers that I wouldn’t be replying to their messages in the evening hours, I just started addressing their concerns the next morning. Rarely, there would be a coworker who didn’t get the hint and I would send a simple reply like, “Let’s talk about it tomorrow morning. I’ll be in at 9.” It’s not rude to set these kinds of boundaries. It’s imperative!
You’ll respect other people’s boundaries too. Before I became assertive myself, I didn’t realize how many times I’d inadvertently disrespected others. Sometimes, I pestered people when I shouldn’t have. I was even needy at times. Everyone has different ways of setting boundaries but no matter how or why they’re there, you should respect them. Now that I recognize the importance of setting my own limits, I hold others who set them in even higher esteem.
It’s the best thing you could ever do for yourself. I’m not kidding. Becoming assertive has proven to be the most worthwhile self-improvement project I’ve ever tackled. People will respect you more and you will become much happier with clearly defined boundaries. Sure, people may be shocked by your boldness at first but they will get used to the new you. And hey, if they don’t, good riddance!
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