2-19-23 Assert Yourself

Assert Yourself

Assert – To advance or promote, to express positively. A direct, honest, and appropriate way of standing up for your rights while respecting the rights of others. It’s the golden mean between aggression and assertion.

From Psychology Today: “It’s become conventional wisdom that it’s essential to stand up for yourself. But there are ways of doing so that are hardly advisable. Ways that will hurt both you and your relationships. Ways that will prevent you from confronting the person most needing to be confronted—yourself. People who are non-assertive—that is passive, or overly deferential—generally don’t (and can’t) get their basic relational needs met and they end up feeling frustrated, misunderstood, and unfulfilled. Ironically, though, individuals who are more aggressive similarly wind up feeling “cut off” from others, despite being much better at getting others to do their bidding. Assure yourself that—without your consent—no one has the authority to invalidate you. That, unless you’ve been in flagrant denial about the facts of the situation, the prerogative to judge the validity of your thoughts and feelings belongs to you alone. And that you hardly need take up arms against someone else’s viewpoint.”

A path to contentment is paved by exercising free choices. A paving stone on this path is the freedom to say no when you mean it. Not saying “no” to just get out of a situation, to not have to deal with a difficulty that you need to, but saying no when it is right, even though difficult. You may not know what this path of freedom feels like until you experiment with responsible choices. When you don’t stand up for yourself, your actions are non-assertive—allowing other people to violate or ignore your rights and feelings. The goal of non-assertive behavior is usually to avoid conflict; however, the habit of non-assertiveness can erode your  self-respect and make you feel spineless, resentful, helpless, or out of control.

Fear is the basic breeder of most difficulties, the chief blockage to true progress. If we are afraid to express ourselves with compassion and clarity, we may be reinforcing negative behavior in another, which we also have a responsibility for. Not for fixing them, but for asserting ourselves with gentleness, and in doing so perhaps they will benefit. We will benefit in being compassionately assertive. Being assertive is always tempered with kindness.

Sometimes compassionate assertion may be met with resistance. If we are unable to step into a situation that may involve some difficulty or resistance from another, we will remain a victim. This may be the crucial point for some: to be able to assert yourself when truly needed, but to do so without fear of a negative reaction. To be able to neither react to negativity with aggression nor to withdraw. To keep our head and heart engaged in a healthy way amidst the swirling confusion from another and not take it personally. To know we can handle negativity with compassion. To not reply in kind (which will only force the other to defend their position), but to reply kindly…or not at all. Often no reply speaks loudly enough. And to then change the focus to something positive. 

If someone insists on “ragging” at you, you might acknowledge their anger, try to understand where they are and have a conversation. On rare occasions, you may need to tell someone you will not accept their verbal abuse and leave. We can recognize that their aggression is only disturbing and conflicting emotions they are experiencing. When we can see that, and are not self-absorbed by taking their fear personally, we can feel compassion for them. We can then elevate ourselves with the two wings of right action—wisdom and compassion. We do not control others or most circumstances, but we can control our minds and keep opening our hearts.

Right Action is the fourth aspect of the Buddhist Eightfold Path. We do not exploit other people or resources for our own gain. We act to promote social justice and well-being for everyone,(including ourselves). Alongside Right Action is Right Intention. We need to examine our intention before acting. If our intention is only to get what we want, to force our opinion on others, or to get revenge on or debase another, our actions will cause harm. If our actions come from our not caring for ourselves and allowing others to assert their agendas over what is healthy for us, non-action is just as harmful as wrong action. 

In my addiction, I continually asserted myself, to the detriment of others, for my own selfish means. This brought nothing but a deeper sense of resentment and disconnection from others as well as myself. As I engage in recovery, I am slowly learning how to assert myself in healthy ways that take others and myself into equal consideration. I will never be perfect in this endeavor but I can continually remind myself to walk towards the light, even when it is difficult.

How do I do this? I go to meetings, I pray and meditate, I engage the wisdom of others, find where my true center lies and gently assert myself towards the brilliance that lies within all of us. I consistently bring my awareness to what is happening, recognize old harmful behaviors, thank them for a lesson in what not to do, relax and move forward with confidence and kindness.

Remember to use the breath when feeling unsure or fearful. Accept what you are feeling, breathe into your heart, calm yourself, center, then kindly take what action is needed through the fear or uncertainty. If you come from your heart, it may be difficult or scary, but it feels right.

As Congressman Tim Ryan writes in A Mindful Nation, mindfulness meditation showed him how he had unconsciously created a harmful narrative for himself. “How tiring! I couldn’t believe I spent so much time and energy trying to uphold a story I created in my own head. I was so caught up in my story that I missed my life.”

If you look back on where you were not too long ago, you may see that you have indeed
progressed, and know that in gently but firmly continuing on your path you will step more fully into the sunlight, and a new life everyday. Through the bumps, keep going.

“To take an honest and accepting look at ourselves will be the first tangible evidence of our complete willingness to move forward. As we persist a brand new kind of confidence is born.”
 –Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

How do you fill your bucket? One drop at a time
The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step
The great arises out of small things that are honored and cared for
May you be well. May you be happy. May you find peace.

Heart Of Recovery web site  — fcheartofrecovery.com