It can be so hard for us to say no and set boundaries with others for so many reasons, although it is important in life that we be able to be assertive and voice our opinions comfortably, without being too passive or too aggressive. Below are some of the barriers that keep us from speaking up for ourselves, and some ways that you can work to push through them. I hope that everyone can achieve a place of confidence within themselves to feel free to speak their minds honestly, openly, unapologetically, and KINDLY.
Entitlement sometimes we do not feel entitled to have an opinion, we feel we don’t deserve what we want, or that we have to consider the feelings of others. Well, if someone else’s feelings are important and to be considered than so are yours. People who do not feel entitled often do not believe they deserve the things that they give to others, and so it is hard for them to ask for what they want and say no when they want to, because they have talked themselves out of believing they can follow their own feelings. Some don’t even know how they feel anymore because they have told their feelings to hibernate so that the feelings of others can be honored. There are lots of reasons that people can feel this way, but it is important to feel that your feelings are valuable, valid, and deserve to be expressed. Entitlement is about self care and knowing what we deserve as humans (respect and love amongst other things). So feel entitled to saying no, and know that you deserve to have what works for you in life. You are allowed to honor you above another.
Approval of others/acceptance Sometimes we want others to like and accept us and so we go along with what they want. Often we don’t feel entitled to have it any other way, and believe that we need to give of ourselves to another to build a bond. What we don’t realize is that anyone who is truly a friend will understand and want to hear and respect our feelings, so if we don’t want to do something it should be okay with them. Real relationships are accepting and unconditional, and although fears of acceptance and rejection are so common, it is important to remember that a real friend will be okay with no. Someone who is truly invested in knowing you will not be swayed by a simple no.
Selfishness I cannot tell you how many times I have heard a person say that they didn’t want to say no because they didn’t want to be selfish. When will we learn that self-care is not selfish, and that selflessness is extremely destructive to confidence and identity? It is not just okay, but essential that we say our side and express how we feel, because no one else is going to do it for us, and life often does not give us anything. If we don’t protect ourselves from being treated unfairly and against our comfort, than who will? As people we need to feel confident in ourselves to protect ourselves, and if we think it is selfish to do so, we will always struggle to feel secure in ourselves and relationships. It is okay to stand up for yourself and to express your feelings, even when they go against the wishes of someone else.
Values Our values are our rules and expectations that we bring into relationships of all kinds that are often rooted in our families and their dynamics. We all learn different things about saying no and what happens when we are assertive with our feelings, and often these lessons mold how we interact in the present. We also learn about gender roles, communication, and conflict from our families and reactions to all of these components influences our ability to say no while feeling comfortable, especially if we were guilted into giving up our wants or manipulated into feeling wrong for our opinions. Unfortunately we often have to explore and learn to let go of family conditioning to improve our ability to be assertive.
Assertiveness/Conflict Being assertive involves being able to express our opinions and feelings with power and confidence but without being mean. Being assertive involves finding a way to express yourself that is NOT IN ANGER. Communication in anger leads to conflict and does not actually accomplish communicating, but being assertive involves speaking up for yourself with force, but without anger. Anger arises in assertiveness when resentment is present. Fear arises if you fear conflict and have not had positive experiences with confrontation. Any situation involving assertiveness feels like a possible situation for conflict for many, and so they avoid being assertive. Often when we avoid being assertive our underlying emotions build up and we become angry and resentful, and if ever our concerns come to confrontation we blow up out of held onto resentment.
As published on Personal Development Cafe.