July 2018
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finally reclaiming my assertiveness


icon: "strong (a photo of me in warm light with my hair down around my face, staring intensely into the camera in a defiant mood)"

I have become more assertive again since getting on the right meds for my anxiety (starting last October I think). I wasn't expecting this but it really highlights how much my reaction to danger is to become meek and obedient. I had mourned the loss of my assertiveness without ever being able to put that into words. I just felt like I had become a coward, when being scared had never stopped me before. It's not that I consciously made different choices (except that I couldn't get myself to initiate social stuff) but that things I would have done literally stopped occurring to me as possibilities.

[recent examples of assertiveness]
I first noticed this a few weeks ago when I met up with a stranger from OKC. First, when I made a mistake and showed up at the wrong place, I accepted their offer to come to me and didn't worry further about it. I didn't compulsively offer things that I didn't have the energy to do. Then when I reached my limit of the social I could manage for the day, I asked for the check, then paid, said goodbye and left despite the fact that they seemed disappointed. I didn't even apologize or offer a long explanation, didn't feel guilty or try to manage their feelings; I just did what felt right.

Another example is week before last, when Topaz decided to take an impromptu vacation trip last week and wanted me to come along for at least part of the time. I said no because trips like that take a lot of work for me, mentally, and I need time to prepare before and recover after, and I have been stressed out for 2 solid months and need down time. I don't find trips relaxing in general and it would have drained me more than it nourished me -- BUT I could have done it. I know my boss would have let me go even though it was last minute, and I have the vacation days saved up. Even though I could have shelved my needs and gone, I didn't.


[one or two years ago I would have reacted very differently]
To be fair, in both cases they were very respectful and literally zero pressure, but for a long time even if the other person was perfect I would feel a need to sacrifice my needs for their wants. With Topaz I would hold back telling them my desires so that I could just accommodate their desires without considering mine. Two years ago and maybe even a year ago, I would have felt too guilty to say no, because it wouldn't actually damage me to do it and for a really long time I couldn't draw a boundary unless it was literally for survival. I couldn't assert my needs and would just hope that the other person took my mild expressions of discomfort as a firm no. I don't think that is part of my personality at all but purely a reaction to abuses I endured and the constant pressure from society in general to be other than I am.


But this time, not only did I say no, I hardly felt any discomfort doing so. I feel like I have reclaimed a very important part of myself. This also impacts my romantic/sexual self in that I am more confident in asking for what I want, and I don't get overwhelmed with fear and self-doubt when faced with rejection. More importantly, being rejected doesn't carry over and color the next chance, and this is true both for individual moments and for people in general.

I feel less likely to fall for anyone who doesn't treat me as the incredible person that I am. I look back a year ago and see myself trying to convince Evelyn that I was worth their time, and I feel sad for past-me that I was so lost that I could feel like it was okay for me to be in a relationship that made me feel like I had no magic and no appeal. I'm not going to do that again. If someone doesn't make it very clear that they are really fucking into me, and tell me why, I'm not spending time on them in the hopes that eventually they will acknowledge my worth. And my true, assertive self is quite confident in saying that "I'm not worthy of you" does NOT acknowledge someone else's worth at ALL. It just passive aggressively pushes them to validate yours. I won't allow people to say that shit to me any more.

[family and work people]
I think a big part of the reason I have been able to reclaim my assertiveness is that about a year ago, Topaz realized that trying to get me to act a certain way around their family was keeping me from being able to connect with their family, and they stopped trying to do that and told me to be myself. I've been slowly reclaiming myself around their family and that has been healing for my relationship with myself.

My coworkers have also been affirming me as my unique self since I have been working there, to a steadily increasing degree. Last July I came out to them as non-binary and they responded kindly for the most part (some just didn't really react). Since then they have been pretty good about using gender-neutral pronouns and being more inclusive in their language (i.e. not saying "ladies and gentlemen"). I feel respected and to some degree even understood.


I'm having less anxiety about talking to strangers. This is huge, since this is always the thing that is hardest for me. I think I am starting to feel like my thoughts and feelings are valid in general, and people can and will want them. I don't know how many years it's been since that was true. I think going through my social justice awakening essentially alone and watching people lose interest in anything about me was really damaging to my social coping skills. And then shortly after that, trying to connect with a group of queers and trans people who just had no interest in knowing me, for some reason I still don't understand. Before that it honestly never even occurred to me that people wouldn't want to connect with me if I wanted to connect with them.

I've been realizing that my ability to not notice what people think of me is a superpower. I had this memory of my dad at my birthday party when I was little - he dropped a popsicle on the floor and picked it up, then told my little 6-year-old friends that they've probably never seen anyone do what he was about to do, and ate it. Looking back I can see that he said that to stave off self-consciousness. I wouldn't have thought about how someone else would react to me doing something like that. I have licked my plate in public, or wiped up sauce with a finger and licked it, without even thinking about how people would see that. I will adjust my underwear in public. I do all manners of odd things in front of people because I really just don't think about it -- and when I do think about it, I don't care (unless my brain chemicals are off).

It is genuinely and significantly damaging for me to be around people who get embarrassed by me. This breaks my superpower and not just in the moment. The more it happens the more it breaks me, because my truest self is always unselfconscious and direct, and when I put on a mask of respectability, I wither. I temporarily lose the ability to even realize my own emotions or know what I want, and it takes time to heal every time I do it.

When I betray my true self by pretending to be a more acceptable version of myself, I lose connection with myself. I must remember this is a grave sacrifice never to be taken lightly, and never to be done often.

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Comments
chillychilly22 ══╣╠══
This is very relatable. These days when I truly feel I'm being myself, I throw a little party in my head.

I'm really happy that youve regained your assertiveness back. You can't tell but I'm throwing a little party for you in my head. Streamers, confetti, and balloons are being released in your honor. Also little victory dance. :)

I had something I would say to myself to remind me of me but I've been so disconnected I don't remember.
sandracaprice ══╣╠══
So glad that you’re reconnecting with your assertiveness!

I very deeply relate with how pretending to be other than your true self affects you. I spent all of my childhood, teenage years, and e ven until my mid- to late-30s doing this to some degree, and it destroyed my mental health. Without knowing myself, it was seemingly impossible to grow or overcome past trauma.
hana_broom ══╣╠══
I can totally relate to what you've written here about assertiveness and stuff... It's something I've been trying to work on for myself. It's lovely to hear of your progress and you're inspiring me! xxx
browncouch ══╣╠══
This is great! I struggle with balancing assertiveness and whether I am just being a jerk. I try to speak up more often and not dwell on things I have done or said, but I notice that focusing more on myself and my needs sometimes makes me socially clumsy.
fairytaleguise ══╣╠══
I'm glad to hear that you are reconnecting with your assertiveness and feeling more comfortable in so doing. My husband and I had a long chat about boundaries tonight - being more assertive is certainly a journey!
queerbychoice ══╣╠══
I'm glad you've got your assertiveness back!

I think I have a lot of the same superpower "to not notice what people think of me." I am more in awe, however, of this other superpower you seem to have that I do not have:

"I feel less likely to fall for anyone who doesn't treat me as the incredible person that I am. I look back a year ago and see myself trying to convince Evelyn that I was worth their time, and I feel sad for past-me that I was so lost that I could feel like it was okay for me to be in a relationship that made me feel like I had no magic and no appeal. I'm not going to do that again. If someone doesn't make it very clear that they are really fucking into me, and tell me why, I'm not spending time on them in the hopes that eventually they will acknowledge my worth."

I've been there and done that so many times, and with the benefit of hindsight I also can look back and see myself trying to convince various people that I was worth their time, and I feel sad for past-me and recognize that I shouldn't do that anymore. But to confidently say that I actually won't do that anymore? Well, that would require recognizing in the moment that I should stop, rather than just recognizing it in hindsight, and I don't really feel confident in my ability to do that. Mostly I just hope never to be in that situation again, never to "have to" waste my time on such a person, never to suffer such a lack of mutual interest again. Because it was terrible, and I do believe I certainly deserve better; it's just that I also feel like "desperate times call for desperate measures," and so I feel like if I were sufficiently deprived again of anyone who acted worthy of me, I don't know what else to do that would be any less useless and frustrating and a waste of my energy than that would be. Like, if I were stranded in the desert and in desperate need of water and I kept seeing oases that I was 99.9% sure were mirages, I would probably keep bothering to check them out . . . just because, what else is there to do? Chasing mirages may be a waste of time, but if every single other option available to do with my time is at least as much of a waste, then I haven't got anything better to do with my time than chase mirages.
basil_00 ══╣╠══
"...It just passive aggressively pushes them to validate yours. I won't allow people to say that shit to me any more."
That's great.

Also, the entirety of the last paragraphs here. You really get rolling and it is fantastic. You improved my day. Thank you.
tree moon
moonlit_ink ══╣tree moon╠══
So much of what you have written here on assertiveness, and on the prior post you linked to from that time in class you felt bad about not being able to approach people for friendship in your offline life, resonates deeply with me. I do appreciate so much how you write in detail about what you are feeling and thinking.

I think I have always just attempted to cloak my lack of assertiveness under certain labels to pretty it up I suppose? Like, "introvert" "shy" "quiet" etc...Now, I am these things for sure. But I know in my life, it was moreso certain experiences that caused me to hide within myself (being so often the only person of colour in my classes; needing speech therapy for several years as no one could ever understand what I was trying to say and would tease me for it; being treated as 'other' and left out; various forms of abuse...) So of course I would speak quietly after living a childhood full of being made of for my voice, how I pronounced words, etc...Of course I would withdraw and fall into my books or writing in my journals, being without friends to really talk with. Over time, I became this closed off, scared-to-be-hurt person.

Making friends online has always been much easier for me because I'm able to put aside some of the fears a lot of us have if dealing with someone in person. Like having to worry about presentation--looks, clothing, if your face is responding in the right way to whatever the other person is saying. For me, there's also trying not to make others uncomfortable with too much eye contact, since I like to look people in the eyes and don't really shy away from that, as it's how I can really pick up on what they are really meaning behind whatever is coming out of their mouths. I'm not one that's very good at hiding the truth of what I am feeling in my facial expressions either. If I'm not interested, that will be shown. I also don't do fake smiles and other 'normal social conventions' that most others adopt to just get along with others.

What I love about connecting with others online is that it often has a better chance at creating a deeper bond and connection. It's easier to let the physical defenses down as they don't come into play at all. You are simply writing out your thoughts, going back and forth, with the focus being on really getting to know someone at a deeper, more pure level. This is much harder to get into offline, for whatever reason, and I think in part, because too many people are focused on getting tripped up over the physical--how someone is dressed, their makeup or lack thereof, how they carry themselves, etc... so some people get distracted by these little differences or things they might not like, when what really matters is getting to know who that person really is within. That's all I'm ever concerned about--the depths of a person. Though it still is rare to connect with others, even online, in such a deep way, it's a gift when it happens. Especially since often it can be with those we might not have had the courage to approach offline, or vice versa, making assumptions about if they'd reject us or not be interested in a friendship at all.

I appreciate your insights and how often your writing pushes me to reflect upon these things in myself. Thank you.
darkestgarden ══╣╠══
This is fucking awesome and I'm really proud of you!
on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.