Does your lack of confidence hold you back? Do you find yourself swallowing words, when you find yourself disrespected or overlooked? Are you constantly feeling anxious about how you’ll be perceived?
Many men and women live with the misconception that their thoughts and feelings don’t deserve the same consideration as everyone else’s, and when they are forced to speak up they often find themselves racked with insecurity and doubt. If these traits are ingrained in your personality, it can be a daunting task to relearn habits, and assert your independence in a calm, collected manner.
But just like any skill, with constant practice and reinforcement you too can regain your space in the world and get the things you’ve always deserved. Here are some great steps to putting the control back in your life.
Assertive not Aggressive
Many of us who feel taken for granted and undermined for too long, swing the pendulum far in the other direction and become aggressive. Communicating in this manner doesn’t allow for anyone else’s thoughts and opinions and can lead to people feeling resentful themselves. Bullies are aggressive — for them it’s their way or the highway. An assertive person listens to every viewpoint, and acknowledges strong arguments, while clearly stating their own feelings.
Tone, Speech and Body Language
Before you attempt to go out into world, there are some helpful exercises that you can try it yourself at home. Practice standing up straight, with your shoulders back and your chin up, take up space and hold a wider stance. If you’re sitting try not to slump, maintain good posture and lean in, try to focus on not closing yourself off by folding your arms or creating a barrier between you and the person you’re speaking to.
When speaking you want to focus on trying to do-away with filler words and sounds like, “um”, “ah”, “just” and “like” these softeners only create an impression of someone who is unsure of what they want. Instead use firmer verbs like “I will”, “I want” and “I choose”, practice using the word “I” as much as possible, by saying “I think” or “I feel”, you are making your opinion clear without devaluing anybody else’s experience.
Speak slowly, and try to focus on maintaining a calm even tone. This will help you express your thoughts better and also create the impression of confidence. There’s no need to hurry.
Set your Boundaries
Set firm rules and limits for the behaviour you’ll allow in your interactions with other people. These are the principles that you won’t compromise on, no matter what. If anyone oversteps these boundaries, then they need to be told “no”. For many passive people, refusing an invitation or a command induces great anxiety and insecurity, but not knowing how to refuse can make you feel obligated to fulfil the needs of others over your own. Instead of accepting without reservation, politely express your boundaries to the other person and your motivation behind refusing.
Try frame your “no” positively, thank the other person for their input, provide your reasoning and if possible offer a compromise. By keeping the focus on your own emotions, your refusal becomes very difficult to argue with.
You Can’t Please Everyone
Your opinions won’t always be accepted or even welcomed, but you are not responsible for the emotions and behaviours of other people, nor can you control their reactions. The only person who you’re responsible for is yourself.
The only person you can reliably count on to advocate for your needs is you. So stand up for yourself and make requests regardless of the reaction you fear because if you don’t then nobody will. While there may be consequences for your words and actions, it’s far preferable to face up to the anger of a spouse, or the displeasure of a boss than to constantly sacrifice self-respect, career advancement and personal fulfilment.