The below post is influenced by the ideas of Dr. Jonice Webb, a leading psychologist and parental education trainer.
As an individual, we think we know everything about ourselves. But, it can be said with a good degree of certainty that there is a lot that we don’t know about ourselves than what we think we know. There are many things that we don’t know that we don’t know. Unfortunately, we act naïve to think that we are smart and we know everything about ourselves. We don’t appreciate the fact that we don’t know what we don’t know about ourselves. But, it is important to recognize the root-causes of our behaviour and understand and make desirable changes to our behaviour.
Our childhood actually determines a lot of our underlying core emotions and behaviour. Certain things like fight or flight, fear, assertiveness and other core emotions and behavior are influenced heavily by the internal systems you developed in your childhood.
Let’s take an individual who in his or her childhood has often been ignored. Probably, s/he was brought up in a large family of seven children and hence the parents didn’t provide specific attention. Perhaps, his or her father died and his mother was engulfed in her own grief. Perhaps s/he had an autistic elder brother who takes away most of their parents’ attention. Or perhaps his parents are self-centred and paid attention mostly to only what they think and feel. Whatever the reason is, the impact on the child is the same. The child is getting the message: your thoughts and feelings don’t matter. There is specifically nobody who fought for his rights or listened to him in his childhood. He was always given something and was expected to live with it.
With such conditioning, the child will grow into an adult whose default setting is to undervalue and under-attend to his or her own feelings, needs and thoughts. S/he will have difficulty in asking for things, expressing feelings and knowing one’s own needs.
In a sense, s/he is growing up receiving the classic, invisible and subtly conveyed message: Don’t value or express your feelings and needs. Why? Because, they won’t be attended and you will end up disappointed yet again. This is the message that completely kills assertiveness in an individual. Growing up, the individual will make a strong internal system that fighting for one’s rights is useless. The individual becomes fine with being the last person in consideration. ‘Oh! I am not so important. It’s okay don’t bother about me.’ ‘It’s okay, I will adjust with this.’
Being assertive is about getting what you deserve. We all have rights to have what we need. Being assertive is not about changing yourself completely; it is about making a better ‘you’. People think being assertive is about bossing around and telling people what to do, nagging people around, and fighting for things. But, that’s wrong!
Being assertive means standing up for yourself, but not to the disadvantage of other people. If one is assertive, one feels able to tell people that something makes one upset, happy, or confused. If we are passive or fearful, we find it difficult to tell people what we want to happen.
Though these core emotions are influenced by one’s childhood, such behavior, when recognized, can be corrected with conscious effort to change. Being assertive will give you the benefit to express your opinions and feel confident in knowing that they are as good as everyone else’s opinions. As Stephen Covey says “Our ultimate freedom is the right and power to decide how anybody or anything outside ourselves will affect us.”