Assertiveness is the ability to state your views without fear, guilt or arrogance and act accordingly. It is also the ability to NOT stay quiet either because of fear or guilt.
In most cultures, it is drilled into one’s mind that we have to be good to others. However, this ‘being good’ to others is done, on most occasions, at the cost of one’s dignity, self-esteem or plain due to guilt or fear. To assert is to be able to overcome this guilt or fear, to be able to preserve one’s dignity or self-respect.
Being able to say NO without feeling guilty or when you are under pressure is also assertiveness. Saying Yes or OK when you really wanted to say No may give you a temporary respite but ultimately results in unpleasant situations, unnecessary headaches and stress.
Mahatma Gandhi has said, “A ‘No’ uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or what is worse, to avoid trouble.”
It is said that to be assertive, one needs high self-esteem. However, most of the times, it requires courage more than self-esteem. When you are able to bring forth this courage and be your own self, the ‘feel good’ feeling that it produces shoots up your self-esteem.
Staying silent when one really needs to speak out is like corrosion of the soul and a trait of a true coward. There is nothing intelligent about not standing up for yourself.
The difference between successful people and not so successful people is that successful people are almost always able to say no if it does not suit their purpose.
Just as it is said that you should not offer advice to anybody unless you are asked for, it is also true that you are not responsible to find solutions to other people’s problems unless you are requested to do so.
Mahatma Gandhi once said that if the oppressor is wrong, then the one who gets oppressed without a fight is equally wrong. Putting up a fight, in this case even if unsuccessfully, is trying to assert yourself.
I recently came across a “Bill of Assertive Rights”, which clearly explains what it means to be assertive.
Here it is:
opposite of self-assertiveness is self-abnegation which means abdicating or
abandoning your personal values, judgment, and interests. A few think that this
is a virtue. If at all it is a virtue, then it is a virtue that eats away
One condition for self-assertion is self-control. Self-control to say no to others’ plans for you, self-control to have your own plans for your life, self-control to act and react as per your own wishes and so on.
If making a decision about your own life upsets other people, so be it. You are not responsible for their happiness. You are responsible for your own happiness. If a person wants you to live in misery for his/her own happiness, that person should not be in your life anyway.
No one is perfect in this world. So don’t think that you have got to be perfect to be paid. Decide your worth and ask for it. And THINK HIGH ABOUT YOURSELF.Many people in the world undervalue themselves and suffer for it.
Whenever somebody tries to use you as a doormat, tell them how it made you feel or that you didn’t appreciate being treated that way. If you feel shy or bogged down, try telling yourself instead that it is okay to speak out and let people know how you really feel.
If you try to please everybody, you will feel frustrated. This is because what others want may not be good for you. You are not being unreasonable when you say NO to others’ demands or when you speak your mind, even if your opinions are different from those of others.
We must say what we have to say. We can gently, but assertively, express ourselves. We have to learn to be assertive without being angry.
Once you learn to be assertive, you realize that it leads to a healthier life. You gain respect for yourself, live life on your terms, and develop healthier relationships.