Do you often find yourself agreeing with others, just to keep the peace? Or do you replay a conversation in your head and regret the things you didn’t say? If you answered ‘yes’, then it’s probably time to work on your assertiveness.
Some of us believe that being more assertive will damage our relationships, but what about our most important relationship – the one that we have with ourselves? At work, not speaking up can cause problems such as missed opportunities, or a lack of diverse and creative ideas. Falling into a pattern of staying quiet to keep the peace is supposed to make us feel secure, but it does quite the opposite. When we are not being true to ourselves, it’s the biggest threat of all.
Why is it so Important?
Working on our assertiveness doesn’t just benefit our emotional health and sense of wellbeing, it will also help our weight loss efforts because saying ‘no’ to that scone or slice of pizza at work is essential – all those little decisions, as you know, can add up to a big result.
A low assertiveness score on your mental weight report (the report we compile every single month for every client which gives a picture of their current habits and attitudes) means that individual easily allows food to be pushed upon them, or they find it very hard to say ‘no’ to friends or family members.
This doesn’t just make social situations difficult – when it comes to consuming excess food and/or alcohol – but it also has implications for emotional eating as the individual may feel driven to eat or numb the frustration and upset they feel after a situation where they failed to stand up for themselves.
We believe that assertiveness is an essential ingredient in successful weight loss. Being assertive means you are saying to yourself ‘I matter’ and ‘I am valuable’ – no weight loss plan will succeed, in the long term, without this.
How Did you Get to this Point?
People-pleasers are people who tend to think it’s easier to avoid arguments than to disagree, or to put their own viewpoint or wishes forward. We see this personality trait quite often through our mental health reports. How you were raised can influence your assertiveness levels. Did you have undue responsibility as a child? Was there an expectation that you were ‘the easy one’, who didn’t demand anything from your parents? Or was there an unspoken ‘rule’ to put others first? For some women, they find that their gender alone can lead to this conditioning.
Top Tips to Greater Assertiveness
No matter how many years you have been suffering from low assertiveness, the great news is that there is something you can do about it. We see people change ALL THE TIME. They change their habits and they change attitudes that had become ingrained over a lifetime. It is highly possible, and worthwhile, in leaving behind old ways of being and embracing a new, more assertive you.
- Become more self-aware: When you feel uncomfortable, ask yourself if your boundaries are being pushed, or if you are agreeing to something you don’t want to do/or if you are nodding in agreement to something you definitely do not agree with. Define what is taking place. Take time to reflect if you feel confused. Take the space and time you need, and then respond.
- Take responsibility for your own emotions, nobody else’s: if someone else is upset, it’s not your fault, even if you feel you ‘triggered’ it. We’re all only responsible for our own feelings. Sometimes we have to say difficult things that are truthful and there may be a negative response (ie. another’s anger) but we can’t take responsibility for those feelings, only our own.
- Strive for honesty: being true to yourself, feels better and is actually kinder to others – they then know where they stand. Try to speak your truth, from the heart, and don’t be afraid to offend or upset someone.
- Accept that some confrontation is unavoidable (and even essential): it’s impossible (and unhealthy) to expect to go through life without some disagreement with others. If you are sick and tired of being ‘a walk over’, then now is the time to act differently. All it takes is a little honesty and a bit of bravery. That simply means expressing your opinion/feeling on something in a way that is respectful not just to others, but also to yourself.
- Focus on a good relationship: think of a relationship you have where you find it easy to be yourself and to express your views – it may be with your partner, a friend, sister, brother, parent or colleague. Consider how it is different to another relationship where you feel under threat. Could you draw on that positive relationship and transfer similar responses to the one that is challenging? People who value you enough can tolerate disagreement. A healthy relationship is one where everyone’s views can be expressed and respected.
- Use the ‘I”, rather than ‘you’: using ‘I’, rather than ‘you language sounds less confrontational. Try saying, ‘I have a different opinion to you’, rather than ‘You are wrong’. Or, instead of saying, ‘You’ve gone and made that cake now and I’ll feel guilty if I don’t try some’, say ‘I really appreciate the offer of cake, but I’m sticking to my healthy eating plan, so no thank you’.
- Ask for help: some women and men who do everything in the house after a long day at work say how tired they are and, understandably, they become resentful. The new, assertive way is to speak up and ask partners and/ or children to help. This approach is actually much fairer to the people around you, as opposed to you being grumpy and feeling frustrated a lot of the time.
- Before a confrontation: if you know a confrontation or difficult conversation is approaching, your body language is key, as is a firm, confident tone of voice. Take a look at this fascinating video on the Power Stance.
- Show yourself compassion after a conflict: be proud of yourself for speaking your truth – it takes bravery. And remember that it’s better to tolerate being on the receiving end of someone’s anger than bending over backwards after accommodating everyone else’s wishes. In the longer run, you’ll be much better off, both emotionally and even physically because, finally, you are putting yourself first.
It takes practice, but everyone can learn to become assertive. Write in and share your stories if you’ve changed from being a people-pleaser to being much more assertive – we’d love to be inspired by you!