Standing up for yourself: Assertiveness

Bullying is a complex issue these days. It’s not just about kids on the playground or on the way to or from school. It happens at home, on the job, anywhere that someone is perceived to be weak, vulnerable and easily pushed around. And it can be difficult to find a way to stand your ground. The lines in the sand seem muted and unclear sometimes. It can be a challenge to decide whether to walk away and think things over or to stand up to bullies and, whatever happens, stand up for yourself.

Learning to assert yourself is an important life skills tool. You want to reduce stress. You can’t be healthy hiding away in isolation so you need the right life skills to “assert” yourself without making enemies.

“Being assertive is a core communication skill,” advises the Mayo Clinic. “Being assertive means that you express yourself effectively and stand up for your point of view, while also respecting the rights and beliefs of others.” Being able to assert yourself will boost your self-esteem and earn respect from others. “Assertiveness is based on mutual respect.” And how we express ourselves says a whole lot about how others perceive the way we think of ourselves.

There are a few terms you should be aware of, and their meanings.

– Assertiveness. You address your needs or rights positively and constructively without violating someone else’s rights: direct, honest and open communication.

– Selfish. A person is being excessively or exclusively concerned about oneself.

– Aggressive. You express your rights at someone else’s expense or denying the rights of others with force.

– Passive. You appear shy or too easy-going and avoid conflict which tells people you and your needs and wants are not as important as they and theirs are.

– Passive-aggressive behavior. You say yes when you want to say no. You are sarcastic or complain about others behind their backs. You’re uncomfortable expressing your needs and feelings directly. These behaviors erode relationships and mutual respect. You are less likely to get what you want or need. And once trust is violated, it’s not an easy task to earn it back again.

– Self-esteem. Your overall opinion of yourself.

The Mayo Clinic also says, “Self-esteem is shaped by your thoughts, relationships and experiences. [You should] understand the ranges of self-esteem and the benefits of promoting healthy self-esteem including mental well-being, assertiveness, resilience and more.”

Do you feel good about yourself? Why?

How important are your opinions and ideas?

Do you worry that you aren’t good enough?

How do others treat you?

What kinds of life experiences (community, school, work) have affected your self-image?

Other things that affect your self-esteem include disability, illness or injury, culture, religion, role and status in society. How strong are your relationships with others? Family, friends, peers, teachers, all are important to your emotional well-being. Circumstances at any time in your life can affect how you think of yourself. Denying problems doesn’t make them go away. Sooner or later you will have to deal with the issues if you want to find a happy place to live.

Healthy self-esteem lies between the extremes of overly high and negative self-esteem. It means you have a balanced perception of yourself, even with your flaws. You feel worthy and secure. And you are happier in your relationships. It’s about liking who you are, even with your flaws, since nobody is perfect.

Family Recovery Center promotes the well-being of individuals, families and communities with education, prevention and treatment programs related to substance abuse and related mental health issues. For more information, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468 or e-mail, FRC is funded in part by the United Way of Northern Columbiana County.