Here are two things you should know about me: I am a people-pleaser, and I hate confrontation. I’ve gotten a tiny bit better about standing up for myself in the last few years because, well, I’ve had to, but in general I have a hard time telling people how I really feel—particularly if I don’t know them exceptionally well, and sometimes even if I do—because I have a fear that they’ll (a) get mad at me or (b) judge me. So for the most part I’ve tried to completely avoid either of those scenarios and live in (or project an air of living in, which is an important difference) “the marshmallow,” as my friend Kate likes to say—in other words, in a white, sugary, fluffy cloud of happiness. As you can imagine, that’s not especially healthy for my mental well-being.
Especially because sometimes the marshmallow gets singed. Sometimes it actually gets burned. And when that happens, I have to do something about it. The wise person who told me I should keep a worry journal and set boundaries with others so as not to be a doormat also told me that “there’s passive and there’s aggressive, and then in the middle there’s assertive. You need to find that place and live there.” And I’m working on it, but when you’re almost 30 and you’ve made a career of avoiding this kind of thing, it is hard. I’ve been pretty good about setting the boundaries, but when it comes to telling people why I’m doing so, I choke—for exactly the reasons mentioned above.
This growing up thing, it is hard.
Anyway, the reason I’m telling you this is because I had a tough week last week—nothing major, just a random grouping of events that conspired to make things a little more difficult than normal—and I found myself incredibly frustrated about the fact that I can’t seem to tell people how I feel. I’m an emotional person by nature, so this perceived shortcoming is, naturally, upsetting. I do think the frustration is good–I think it’s going to lead to some sort of breakthrough—but tell me: How do you guys assert yourselves? Have you learned to become more assertive? And when do you choose to speak up vs. stand down? I would really love to know.
Photo by Nikaa