The Dangers for Women of Not Being Assertive
By Penny Sampson
Alone, depressed and feeling helpless Brenda sits on the edge of her bed reflecting on a painful conversation she had with her daughter’s teacher at school today. When the teacher suggested that the girl’s spirited nature was an abnormality that needed to be ‘fixed’ with medication – Brenda found herself reacting the way she typically did: bite back her tongue, suppress her desire to contest and nod her approval.
Hours later, she is still beating herself up: “Why couldn’t I tell her what I really thought?” she thinks. Brenda’s self-blame and torment will take its usual turn into passive aggression – taking it out on her marriage and family. But not before more agonizing experiences cascade through her mind:
Lying in bed during the delivery of her first born feeling more like cattle than an empowered mother taking part in the incredible miracle of life – all because she didn’t express her desire to have a natural birth in the face of medical staff who seemed hurried and more intent on getting the birth over than allowing her time to enjoy the experience; or the many times she was passed for promotion in her career because even though she was a model employee and never turned down extra work she never negotiated or firmly asserted her rights; or the endless fights with her husband that left her feeling resentful and trapped until the two hardly spoke at all; everyone, even the utility company seemed to be part of an elaborate conspiracy to make her suffer.
Sadly this is a very real scenario for thousands of Women. The constant doing for others, feeling of emptiness and longing for more, the struggle to be heard, seen and valued for all that you do and all that you are and the fight to be able to raise your children and live your life without feeling overwhelming guilt for saying NO MORE.
We as a populous are now paying the price for that suffering and it is great. Prescription anti-depressants are at an all-time high (according to the CDC the rate of antidepressant use in the United States among all ages increased nearly 400% since 1988 and they are being prescribed to women 2.5 times more than men), tempers are flaring, relationships across the board are breaking down and children are caught in the middle (which comes with its own set of negative consequences) and for one reason: We are NOT tapping into the Assertive Inner Strength born unto us.
We have come a very long way in terms of women’s rights and freedoms since the 1960’s but, with that has come a whole new set of challenges. Women today are playing full out in areas that were traditionally male-dominated, taking jobs as senior corporate executives, heart surgeons, astronauts, and presidents – often, in addition to our roles as mothers, wives and care-givers.
But somewhere along the line when we entered the masculine world, we missed the training on saying NO or how can we make this work so that all parties are satisfied. We merely say, ok or sure thing “I can do that” even if it goes completely against what our personal needs, wants, values and beliefs are. We are the poster children for “doing and getting it done”. But what many of us fail to do, is assert our personal needs into the mix. We do for others until it hurts and then, we do some more and some more. We have been taught that to speak up for what we want is pushy and demanding, to stand our ground in the face of adversity is not feminine; to negotiate strongly for the sake of our children, our beliefs or business is being a b*&@# and non-compliant and that none of these traits are desirable. The sad truth is that with that mentality in mind women are struggling, burning out, growing resentful, depressed, powerless and bitter.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to remain this way for women no matter how long they have been playing small and suppressing their voices.
It’s time to tap into that assertive strength that we are ALL – male and female – born with and use it proactively to propel us forward in our lives and in our business.
Three ways to start moving towards empowerment:
1) Take lessons and master the art of assertiveness
2) Set healthy boundaries in all areas of your life
3) Increase your self-care time; alone and with friends
If the key to having healthy relationships is communication then assertiveness is crucial; as assertiveness creates a foundation for open dialogue where both parties are heard clearly and where both parties can come to a mutually beneficial outcome and let’s face it, if we had a choice between being the aggressor and dominating everyone into submission to get our way or submitting to everyone else’s will and never having a say which would you choose. I choose neither; I choose to live authentically out loud, assertively and fully expressed.
We are not always going to see eye to eye, others will not always like what we have to say and we are not always going to be able to have our needs fully met but, at least by being assertive, the cards are all on the table and this creates opportunity.
Imagine if only for a moment what could change in your life, what doors would open, what joys you would experience, what quantum leaps you could make in your business if only you would just tap into or acquire the skills to assert yourself.
And Brenda? Well, the truth is there is no ‘Brenda’. She is the face of many women out there and they get to decide if they will continue living a life of self-imposed shackles or break free of their chains.
To learn about the work of Penny Sampson, go to http://pennylsampson.com/