7 ways to become assertive and stop people pleasing
I used to be scared of being assertive. I thought I would alienate people, turn people away, and I thought people would just think I was a massive bitch. I've spent a lot of my life being a people pleaser. While I dress in bright and bold colours (that never match), have colourful language and like thinking outside of the box, I've spent a long time in fear of offending or being rude to people, and being judged.
And being a people pleaser is exhuasting. But the things we don't even consider are the most damaging:
* When we're busy people pleasing, we're telling ourselves that we're less important, and that our needs are less important
* Our decisions are made from a place of fear and wanting to appease others, instead of for ourselves
* We're putting a lot of ourselves on the line for other people, who probably don't even think twice.
And there lies the problem. When we're scared of being assertive and are busy people pleasing, we're looking at the outcomes based on other people’s perception, instead of thinking what it would do for us.
Fast forward a couple of years, and I've learned to be assertive.
And funnily enough, becoming assertive didn’t make me a bitch. Instead, I feel like I have more control over my life, which makes me happier.
By standing my ground, I actually find that people have more respect for me and my confidence has grown.
And people know where I stand. When I said yes to something, my friends and family know I mean it, instead of going along with it to make life easier. And the same goes with saying no.
It's a hard transition, going from someone who is worried about being judged by the decisions they make, to someone who approaches the world with the same level of kindness, but more rough around the edges. But from someone who's been there, there are lots of things you can you can do to make it a bit easier and start the journey.
1. Write a manifesto
Knowing what you stand for is one of the best foundations you can have for becoming assertive. A manifesto is a no holding back declaration of who you are - it is unapologetically you. It's generally just for you, and encompasses everything that makes you you, forgetting and not caring what others might think.There are lots of resources you can use for this, but Alexandra Franzen's guide to writing a mind-blowing manifesto is a favourite of mine. You can find her guide here.
2. Think about people you like who are assertive
Somewhere along the line, being an assertive woman became synonymous with being a bitch. As women, we've spent centuries fighting for our right to have a voice and be listened to, so it isn't surprising that we struggle when it comes to assertiveness. To challenge this belief, have a think about a friend or family member who you like, who is also assertive. Does their assertiveness make you like them any less? How do people react to it? What do they do when they're asserting themselves? Chances are, they're things you can adapt for yourself, and remember - they had to learn to be assertive too.
3. Make a list of the positives that will come with being assertive
I love a list. I particularly love a list that's useful, that you can stick up somewhere. Have a think about why you started reading this post in the first place. Why do you want to become assertive? What do you think you'll get out of being assertive? Is it so people will stop taking the piss and taking you for granted? Is it because you're on the final straw and have just had enough of people treating you the way they say fit? Put it all down, and put it somewhere that you'll see it. That way, when you're putting boundaries into place, you know the wider perspective of why its so important.
4. Be realistic about the people you're worried are judging you
I'd say 95% of the people you see on a daily basis (in a supermarket, at a bus stop, in a cafe), you are never going to see again. And as horrible as it might sound, they're minds are probably full of problems in their own world, and they won't care if you fringe looks a bit wonky or if you assert yourself in a queue. They don't really care as they have bigger fish to fry.
5. The swimming costume story
Building on from the last point, I want to share you a story that my Mum told me when I was younger. I remember being terrified about going swimming because I thought my thighs were fat. I thought people were going to judge me. I thought people were going to laugh at me and point and stare. I shared my embarrassment with my Mum and she told me that the people in the swimming pool would be more worried thinking about how they look, and their own hang ups to even register mine. And she was right. I went swimming, no one pointed and laughed, and I had a lovely time. The same is true now. People are too busy worrying about being judged themselves than they are judging you! Unless they're really horrible people, and if so, read this.
6. Be kind to yourself
At some point, if we want other people to stop judging us, we need to stop judging ourselves. We're so fixated on negative things we think about ourselves, that we don't even stop to think that other people probably haven't even noticed. Keep a list of compliments that other people have given you, write a list of things you do like about yourself. See the good things, and focus in on them.
7. Find little ways to be assertive.
This can be as creative as you like. It could start with telling someone who's pushed in a queue that you were in front of them. It could be sending food back in a restaurant if it's not cooked right. It could be getting used to asking people in a shop where things are. The steps you take and how big they are will all depend on your situation, but remember to count each of your wins, no matter how small. (But don't turn into a dictator and be nasty to people just for the sake of testing our your new assertiveness skills, that's not cool).
Some people won't like it when you become assertive but that’s their problem. There’s nothing wrong with sticking up for yourself and saying no. Though it does take practice, it infact makes your life easier in the long run!
But let’s face it, life is never going to be easy, but that doesn’t mean you need to sabotage yourself and make it harder!
So, to wrap up, I just want to say a couple more things that are really important. Firstly, learning to be assertive takes time. Don't beat yourself up every time you slip up. Accept that it's a process and celebrate the small wins along the way. Keep a list of them, and feel good, because you should!
And, lastly and most importantly, remember:
You weren't born to take up space, your feelings are just as important as anyone else's and you fucking matter.