Self Assertiveness – Setting Intentions

My last two posts on anxiety and codependency and enmeshment actually tie in quite nicely with assertiveness. In my post on anxiety, I said: You do not have to apologise for taking up space in this world. The meaning of this may or may not be clear to some people. What I mean by this is that you do not need to make yourself smaller to accommodate others you deem more important than yourself. You do not need to keep quiet about your needs in fear of displeasing or inconveniencing someone else. In other words, you do not need to submit. In my resource for self-esteem growth that has formed the foundation of this blog, it explains self-assertiveness as follows:

“This can often be a difficult point for many of us because it appears to threaten our apparent good standing with others and risk their disapproval. It is about standing up for ourselves and our legitimate rights, as scary as that may seem. Surprisingly enough, others often respect and like us more as a result!”

How can that be? How can it be that risking someone’s disapproval by being honest and putting yourself first can make you more respectable and likeable? Well, consider the alternative. The entry-level colleague who always picks up the extra shift when someone phones in sick, the one that always stays an extra few hours when needed. On the outside it seems like they don’t mind, they’re just trying to help out the team. But on the inside, they’re neglecting other areas of their life. They’re regularly skipping breaks so they’re not eating right. All the extra shifts mean they’re not sleeping right, either. On top of this, they’re starting to get ill more often than usual but they’re coming into work anyway because this commitment is now expected of them; so they’re not giving themselves the rest they need to get better. What you find with someone like this is that more and more is constantly being asked of them. The needs of this individual are being considered less and less by management because this person has never once vocalised them. Routinely disregarding the needs of another is disrespectful so it’s fair to ascertain in this case that the individual is being disrespected at work.

The workplace is one of the scariest places in which to vocalise your needs because you need a job to live with dignity (I am discounting those who live with severe disabilities here) and there was certainly a time when I would’ve been petrified to do so; but it’s essential to your wellbeing. I had an experience yesterday at a potential new job in a restaurant where I realised I was not going to get my needs met if I stayed. I worked from 12 noon ’til 10pm and got one measly 15 minute break, which is not only unfair – it’s illegal. Some people argue that this is normal in hospitality and that you have to put up with it, which I refute completely. It’s this blasé attitude which allows these norms to pervade. On top of that, I was required to ask the permission of the manager before seating anyone at a table and before taking orders, because it was “busy”. Bearing in mind I have worked both in hotel and casual restaurants and have plenty of experience. Having to constantly check in with the manager was something I found to be disempowering and patronising. It was clearly a flaw in their business model – the kitchen simply wasn’t big enough to facilitate a busy night. The stress of this was then filtered down the chain of staff. This along with being showed how to pour a pint (which I’ve probably done a thousand times – the technique I was shown was actually wrong and misinformed) and being stuck with the task of polishing cutlery half the night (no one else was asked to to this), I decided this job was not for me. Even though I’d filled out all the paperwork and gone through some basic training, I told the manager I didn’t want the job. Upon being asked why, I told him that the break situation was really bad in my opinion and that I’d never had to work so long on so little a break. It was a bit difficult for me to have to tell him this and I certainly took a deep breath before doing so but it’s taking little risks like these to put yourself first which nurture your sense of autonomy, confidence and self respect. Luckily, I have another job offer from a manager that seems considerate and down-to-earth at the very least but I’m aware that some people in certain situations feel they don’t have the luxury of choice.

Although I feel quite assertive in my life, what are some actions I could take to become more assertive? If there’s a common theme on this blog it’s that there is always room for improvement. Someone I really look up to and admire for being assertive is my boyfriend. He has a good position at work and isn’t afraid to ask for respect and recognition because of it. In our relationship, he regularly verbalises his needs which inspires me to do the same and he is good at separating rationale from emotions which allows him to make good decisions.

The self-help resource I used when I was struggling with depression, Moodjuice, also has a resource on being assertive so I’m going to be using this to make my intentions for this week. Out of the examples laid out about being assertive, there are a few which stand out in particular for me:

  • Setting your own priorities i.e. choosing how you spend your time
  • Asking for what you want
  • Saying “no” without feeling guilty

For me, these will pertain mostly to work. With college, there’s no legroom to change my schedule or hours. This will be difficult, though. In the run-up to Christmas, employers rely more and more on their staff to be flexible and make sacrifices for the company so I guess I should set loose boundaries rather than being completely rigid in vocalising my needs. The main thing for me is getting a break – getting time to have something to eat. In my induction for my new job, breaks was never a part of the conversation. I always intend to bring it up but then I get too nervous. So my first intention is to ask my employer how the company works their breaks.

Secondly, I plan to try and spend my time more wisely and take charge with giving myself the me time I desperately need. The past two weeks have been so hectic. I’ve been working on assignments for college whilst trying desperately to find a job. In between traipsing about and handing out CVs, having 4 interviews, 2 trial shifts and an induction as well as going to college and being on placement – I’m absolutely exhausted. Luckily this week will be less crazy because I’ve found a new job and I’ll have most of my evenings free again instead of handing out CVs and having interviews. In this time, aside from college work, I plan to schedule in time to relax and do things I enjoy. I’ve just written a new song so I’d love to spend one evening or afternoon changing my guitar strings and starting to play it. I’d also love to take a bath and read. And maybe if I can fit it in, watch a film one night. Already I feel anxious about not having enough time to do these things but I need to do at least one of them to keep my head above water.

And then there’s saying “no” without feeling guilty. The only way I can think to relate this to my life is to not take on too many shifts. Luckily, I don’t think my employer is the type to guilt trip me into to doing this but nonetheless, I’m determined to keep to my limit of having at least one full day off a week. If work is very busy I will make an exception to work an extra half day but that’s where I will draw the line and I will remind myself that I don’t need to feel guilty about being honest about what I want.

It feels good to be back to my original blog format and to be continuing down the road of self-esteem growth. I hope others are learning along with me as they read this. 🙂 My next post will be on my thoughts about this week of self assertiveness.

Thanks so much for reading!

– SMUT. ❤ xxx

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