How do I assert myself?

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Thank you so much for your responses. I really needed an outside perspective on what happened with my parents last week, and your responses helped me realize that I wasn’t exaggerating. I think I’ll ask my counselor about my parents’ behavior at the beginning of the semester. I told my friends about how I had been struggling, and they were so helpful and supportive of me.

As for being more independent, one of my friends suggested we live together in an on campus apartment in the spring. I would be so happy if this happened, and I want to see if my parents will be open to it.

I’m a little worried about something. During the summer, we took breaks from church, so I didn’t have to see my assailant as often. Now that the school year is starting, I’ll have to be at church more often. I teach Sunday School, and I’m in the choir during service (which means I’m closer to him in proximity). I know I can rein it in while I’m there, but I’m worried about the physical, mental, and emotional toll it’s going to take on me.

I’ve also been thinking about something else recently. I’ve noticed that it’s very hard for me to assert my needs and wants with the people around me. I know that it’s so important to talk about what we need and want with the people in our lives. Yet this tiny part of me keeps wondering if they’ll get annoyed or I’m being a burden/too much. I’m thinking that the way my parents respond to emotions could have affected me in this way.

I’m trying to be more assertive with my family, but not too assertive so that my parents don’t invalidate me. It’s so painful every time that happens. I’m also trying to be more transparent with my friends and let them know how I’m feeling, but I’m not as worried about them invalidating me.

I know that it takes practice, and I’ve been trying to assert myself more often. Yet I still deal with resistance before talking about what I need/want. Have you ever been through this, and do you have ways to get through that resistance?

Anyway, that’s my update. I hope you’re all having a great week!


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26 comments

  1. eagle206 Volunteer

    Hi Music2799,

    Thanks for coming back to update us on your story. I’m glad you were able to find help with the responses from last week. It’s great to hear that your friends have been supportive of you! It’s hard to know whether you are being assertive or bothersome. Something I do is that I try and imagine if one of my friends said what I was going to say. If I feel like I would see it as assertive then I think you should go ahead and say it! It’s important to let your voice be heard.

    Stay strong,

    Tyler

  2. Julia Mandel Day Captain

    Thank you for keeping us updated. I’m so happy that you are doing better and working on asserting yourself more. Hopefully it works out moving in with your friend! I am glad they are being a good support system for you. What you are feeling is normal, but do what is best for you; if your friends have been supportive thus far, I am sure they will be supportive in whatever you tell them. Stay strong <3

  3. mkyuellig

    Hey there,

    I’m glad that the responses to your last post were helpful, and helped to put things into perspective. I think that living on campus with a friend is an excellent idea, and I hope that your parents would be open to, since it is a happy medium between living with them with their supervision and being totally unsupervised living on your own.

    It makes complete sense to me that you would be apprehensive about being more involved with your church and therefore being in closer proximity to your assailant. Church has never been a big part of my life, so I can’t say that I understand how important it is to you to be active within that community, but I respect that it is something that is important to you and your family. My wish is that, as a religious institution promoting love and fairness and kindness – the church would prioritize your feelings of safety rather than minimizing it or protecting who hurt you. You shouldn’t have to alter your daily life to avoid him, he should be the one making those arrangements. At the end of the day, I want to assure you that you should never feel obligated to do something or be somewhere that makes you feel unsafe or puts you mentally or physically at risk. Your safety and your well being should be your first priority, and though others may try to tell you otherwise, that is absolutely okay.

    As for the being assertive question, I want to recommend the book “Girl, Stop Apologizing” by Rachel Hollis – it has great tips about how to be more assertive, and how women are conditioned to be more passive and how we can make some subtle changes in our behavior to gain control of certain situations.

    Stay strong and be gentle with yourself
    Keight

  4. Knina7 Volunteer

    music2799,
    I am glad you are doing well! Thank you for updating us, I think that living in an apartment with your friend sounds amazing!
    As far as being more assertive, just remember that a lot of people have this same issue and that you are not alone. I think that what you are doing is a good way to work on it. What happened to you is not your fault, keep that in mind when you see him. Please reach out if it gets to be too much seeing him, and know that we are always here to listen.
    Sending Love and Hope,
    Kelly

  5. Ashley Day Captain

    Hello music2799,

    I’m thankful that we were able to provide you with an outside perspective. I support the idea of discussing your parents’ behavior with your counselor. I’m proud of you for opening up to your friends and it’s nice to hear that they were understanding. The suggestion that your friend made about living on campus together is an excellent idea; doing so would definitely allow you to gain independence and it would help you get some space from your parents when necessary.
    Truthfully, I struggle with expressing what I need and want too. When I encounter situations where I can tell that it would be beneficial to mention my needs, I remind myself that other people can’t read my mind and that I’ll continue to be unhappy if I don’t address how I’m feeling. It sounds like most of the people in your life are willing to support you and I encourage you to keep that in mind when you feel hesitant to communicate your needs. When it comes to discussing your needs to your parents, I think it would be helpful to talk to your sister and exchange ideas with her 🙂
    Every time you go to church, please do something nice for yourself afterward!

    Ashley

  6. Leximcclelland Volunteer

    Hey music2799!

    Thank you for the update!
    Being assertive is something I struggle so hard with too and it’s hard to find the balance of being assertive but not pushing to too far.. I really hope you find some balance and can find the courage to stand up for yourself more and more. Like you said, practice. Each time you do, you’ll feel better about doing it and it won’t be as terrifying.

    It’s scary to be in close proximity to your assailant. If you ever feel threatened or in danger please reach out to someone who can help you immediately. My advice for that would be put all your focus into your faith, teaching Sunday school and self care. Keep yourself happy and surrounded by other people who bring you happiness and peace while at church.

    Good luck with starting school, I hope it brings you what you want and you get the independence you need!

    Keep us updated, we are always here for you!

    – Lexi

  7. colton95 Volunteer

    I think that being assertive is great and I hope that your parents will be understanding and that you will stay strong and persevere!

  8. Breanna Grunthal Volunteer

    Hey music2779,

    Thanks for coming back and updating us! I am really glad to hear that your friends were supportive and validated what you’re going through.

    I think that a part of growing up and becoming independent is learning how to assert yourself and for many people, it takes practice. Asserting yourself can be that much harder when you’ve never had experience or never been encouraged to assert yourself. Please forgive me if I’m incorrect here, but it sound like you’ve never been encouraged to do so. I can completely relate to that, so I understand how it is like a war with yourself about if something is worth bringing up, how to bring something up, when, etc. But I want you to know – you can do it. And it really is true that the more practice you have with it, the more comfortable it becomes.

    You are doing great things by being more assertive with your family. Sometimes the best course of action is to start being assertive with the small things before the bigger ones. I’m really proud of you!

    Love and support,
    Bre

  9. Bluebell13 Volunteer

    Dear music2799,
    It is wonderful to hear that posting and receiving responses has helped give you some clarity. From what you have told us about your parents, it sounds like they want complete control over their children in all aspects of their lives and it is no wonder that you are struggling with being assertive. This is a skill that I have only understood in the last five years and have been working on personally as well. I have to practice my tone to make sure I am not being passive or aggressive. I think of two neutral things (the color of the ceiling and the color of the floor), make statements about them: “The ceiling is white, the floor is brown. I am going to …” I am in the field of education and as a teacher, I was having difficulty because I said things like a question instead of telling the students assertively what I wanted them to do. Learning this changed the whole dynamic of my class changed and I began to carry it over into my personal life.
    I think moving onto campus is a great way to be assertive and to begin to have control over your own life. It is a wonderful transition into adulthood because you have some responsibilities of living on your own, but you aren’t overwhelmed by having all of the responsibilities of living in a house or an apartment.
    These are both great topics to talk with your therapist about.
    Sending you love and strength,
    Roxie

  10. Jordan Volunteer

    Welcome back music2799 !

    It’s great to hear back from you and thank you for the little update. As others have mentioned, it is great knowing that the responses from your last post gave you some more insight and was able to help you in some way 🙂 I think moving into an apartment with your friend on campus in the spring would be a great idea! Having a roommate in college is a perfect way to see how being on your own feels and gives you that experience of being away from your parents. You have your own space and privacy, but it would be nice knowing you’re staying with a friend and not just a stranger.

    As for seeing your assailant more frequently, self care is one of the most important things that I think anyone can do <3 what are some things that help you decompress or make you genuinely happy? For example, whether I've had a long day at work, or I have a lot going on in my head, I love taking long hot showers. It is one of the ways I relax and decompress and also, it is good me time! I've also been practicing meditation and mindfulness a lot recently, this is something you could always look into as well because this practice could really help keep you calm and at ease with whatever is going on in the mind, especially if being around this person makes you feel a certain way emotionally, physically, and mentally. I think it is great that you are seeing a counselor at school too, it is a great way to get things off of your chest as well and improve your healing process 🙂

    It can be hard trying to assert yourself, especially because you do not want people to walk over you time and time again. For me personally, it has taken personal experiences to become better at asserting myself. The fact that you are actively trying to work on this is great, most people don't try to change things about themselves, instead they think those around them should change instead. I've always had a hard time in the past communicating with my boyfriend about things that made me upset or hurt my feelings when it involved him, but over time, I've slowly gotten better and better at letting him know with my words, almost immediately why that hurt me. It takes time 🙂 As you said, I think your friends will be just fine, they seem to be a good support system for you. Where your parents are concerned, I just hope that they are willing to grow and change as well and if not, you may just have to accept that they never might. Then it is up to you if you think it will be worth having a relationship with them or not.

  11. Samantha Harris Volunteer

    Hi music2799,
    I’m so glad to hear that the responses on your last post helped you out. I think it’s a great idea for you to live with your friend on campus. It’ll be good experience for living on your own, and also give you some distance from your parents for a little while. As for being assertive, I would keep in mind that it’s all about being clear and confident about your what you want or need. I’ve personally struggled a lot with being assertive, but it gets easier with practice. What helped me was to focus on being calm and listening to the other person’s view, but to respectfully stand your ground when you need to. Feel free to reach out to us anytime. We’re always here for you.

  12. Ryan4121 Volunteer

    This message makes me so happy 🙂 Glad your road to recovery is going well. Maybe experiment with different levels of assertiveness with people you feel comfortable with. Potentially even tell them ahead of time that you may be doing so and ask for their feedback. Keep going!

  13. Kayla Volunteer

    Music,

    It’s good to hear from you. I’m glad AVFTI helped to give you perspective. Writing and sharing is one of the best ways to organize and understand complicated feelings and thoughts.

    One of my biggest ways of tackling being assertive is to re-think what being assertive really means. I think there is negative connotation to the word “assertive” that suggests being bossy or aggressive – when that’s not the intention. Think of it more as being true to yourself, and honoring your own thoughts and feelings. It can be quiet confidence, and saying no to things that do not serve you. I find writing out boundaries, wants and needs then comparing things you’re uneasy about can add clarity.
    Moving out with your friend would be a great way to assert more independence for yourself and show your parents that you’re able to stand on your own two feet. I personally felt a relationship change when I first moved out in college with my parents. It also can create more space which is really helpful.

    Sending you love,
    Kayla

  14. Lizzi

    Hey music2799,
    Being assertive is HARD. I’m terrible at it, and I think most people probably are as well. It’s such an important thing to be able to assert yourself and your needs, but it’s just so hard to do! I get not wanting to feel like a burden, being annoying, or possibly being invalidated. Those are possibilities, but I think it’s helpful and important to remember that even if someone responds poorly to you asserting yourself, that’s on them and not you. You can share your needs and it’s not your problem how others respond. I think the more you assert yourself, over time it’ll get easier. I think it could be great for you to move in with a friend at school! That’s a good way to try out living away from home, and bonus points is that talking to your parents about this is a way to practice asserting yourself!

  15. Megan Volunteer

    Hey music2799,

    I’m glad that we could help you on your previous post! I think it would be a great idea to live with your friend. I really loved living in an on-campus apartment with my friends. It gave me much more independence, let me get closer to my friends, and helped me because I had them right there if I ever needed support. As for being at church more, I would talk with your counselor about it and see if you guys can do some preventative work to try make it have less of an impact on you, as well as come up with some coping skills that could help you too. For being assertive, I’d like to start off by saying that it takes time to change your behaviour, so it’s not surprising that you still have some resistance. It sounds like you have already made some progress with being more assertive (which is amazing!) and that with more practice, it will get easier. As for myself, I can very touch and go with being assertive. I’m a pretty stubborn person, so there are some times where I can be really assertive. However there are also other times, like with people I care about like friends and partners and family, where I struggle to be assertive a lot more. There are times where I don’t get through the resistance at all, but there are also times where I do and that is usually by planning out what I want to say (I like to write it down if I’m really struggling to say something) and then by talking myself into it somehow. My situation is kind of random though so I’m not sure how helpful it’ll be lol.

    I hope you have a good week and keep practicing! You’ve got this!
    Megan

  16. Alyssa Day Captain

    Hi music2799,
    I’m going to be completely honest right now. I am TERRIBLE at being assertive. I know exactly how you feel. I don’t think being assertive is in my vocabulary, but I can tell you that I give great advice on how to be assertive. I’ve never used my own advice, but my friends have and it works. If you want to say something, say it. If you want to do something, do it. Don’t be scared. Don’t think about anything. The more you think the more you won’t do what you want. If you want to tell your parents about the apartment with your friend, but you don’t think they will be okay, tell them this is what you want to do because this is your life. No one can’t stop you from living your life the way you want to. If you don’t like the way someone is treating you, straight up just say stop treating me like this. Chances who ever you become assertive with they will stop doing what you wanted them to stop doing. Like I said just don’t think or be scared you just have to do it and say it. I hope that helped.
    When you go back to church more during the school year, even though he’s going to be there. It doesn’t matter. He’s not going to hurt you anymore, he’s not going to talk to you, and he’s not worth worrying over. You are strong. You are amazing. You are 1,000 times better than him. You have nothing to be scared of when your at church. If he looks at you, it’s because he’s jealous of how much better off you are without him in your life. You are in college, you work for an amazing non-profit, you are going to graduate and get a job where ever you want, you are going to get a family of your own, and do all the things you want to do in life and he’s not going to be there because he doesn’t matter. You have great friends, everyone at AVFTI, even though your parents might be a little controlling they control because they love you. When you go back to church more, remember that you have a HUGE support system to back you up. Don’t be nervous. If you get nervous, just breath. You got this. I believe in you.
    -Alyssa

  17. candyappleb Volunteer

    Hi music2799,

    Thanks for sharing the update with us. Learning how to become assertive for your needs is challenging and requires a lot of time and practice. It can be very difficult. Remember healing isn’t linear. You’ll have great days and bad days. It’s all a part of the process. Take your time and do what’s best for yourself. I hope your apartment works out for you this coming Spring. That sounds like a wonderful opportunity to continue your growth and recovery. You’ve got this. We’re here for you!

    All the best,
    Becca

  18. Edjay Volunteer

    Hi music2799,

    Thank you for the updates. Living with friends in an on-campus apartment sounds like a great idea to become more independent. Hopefully it does happen in the spring. It’s totally normal to feel worried about seeing your assailant at church. Seeing him in close proximity definitely sounds like it can do some harm, and as other said below, there is nothing wrong with putting yourself first and stepping out if you need to.

    As for assertiveness, it’s great that you recognize the importance of assertiveness in our daily lives. Your worries about wondering if they’d think you’re annoying or being a burden is understandable, but there is nothing annoying and burdensome about communicating what you need. It sounds like you are trying your best to be more transparent with the people in your life, and that is admirable. As you said, it definitely takes practice to get to a place where you don’t deal with resistance to talking about your needs anymore. We are here for you every step of the way. Take care.

  19. Northlane1991 Volunteer

    Thank you for coming back and updating us on how you are doing! You have to take care of yourself and tell your family and your friends what you need and let them take care of themselves and feel however. please take care of yourself.

  20. Solongago Volunteer

    If you live with your friend, would you still have to go to the same church? Have you considered finding a different church and getting active there? Or will that upset your parents too much? Or is it you that wants to stay with this church?

    Would it be easier to give up the choir or teaching Sunday School or both? I mean, being a full-time college student could be a great reason to let go of some outside commitments, and you can just say, I can’t do it this year, because I’ve got too much going on with school. Do you have a part time or full time job as well? If you don’t, getting a part time job may be another way to be more assertive about what you want and need. Maybe not in your family, but in mine, work comes first, and if I use the work-excuse, that is the one thing that is never questioned.

    At some point, you have to take care of yourself, and tell your family and your friends what you want/need, and let them take care of themselves and feel however they like about it. There’s a point where they invalidate you, and you allow it to really affect you badly. Of course, anyone would feel badly when family invalidates us. BUT, we can’t change our family. Sometimes they do change. But waiting for that to happen, expecting that to happen, hoping that to happen is setting ourselves up for disappointment and a lot of other negative feelings. At some point, you have to accept them for who they are, expect the behavior they are likely to perform, the things they are likely to say, and let it go in one ear and out the other.

    It is divorcing yourself from their expectations for you and from your expectations for them. Because it is exhausting to try to make people who don’t want to change, do what we want them to. It’s a lot easier to say than to do, I know that. Maybe you can start with something small and expect flack for it and deflect it internally. Like if you tell your church you are not going to teach SS, will your parents give you flack for that? Is that something you can expect and accept the flack for and practice not caring what they think about that.

    When I was 21, I was still living at home, I had finished 3 years of college and was working full time, and was keeping my mom’s bookstore open after work and managing the kids when I wasn’t able to be there because I was at work. Without consulting my mother, I started going to a Bible study. My little brother who was almost 15 TOLD ON ME. Can you imagine? The idea that I should have to ask permission to go to a Bible Study at 21??? My mom told him I was 21 and if I wanted to go to a Bible study I could. LOL! But the whole idea of that. The point is, to be more assertive, you have to risk some, you have to try some things, do some things, without permission and willing to take what they say but not absorb it, not allow it to cut into your self-esteem. I think it is good to listen to their complaints or discussions about whatever, respectfully, and then do exactly what you were intending to do. If that upsets them, like they thought you agreed not to do whatever, just quietly say, that you heard them, but you have decided that this is best for you. Don’t argue or fight about it. Just do it. Listen to them. And make your own choices.

  21. mikaylaanne11 Volunteer

    Hey music2799,

    Welcome back! I’m glad to hear some positives in your update. I think that the living situation with your friend would be greatly beneficial for you so that you can get a sense of independence and remove yourself from your current harmful environment. I’ve been living with my best friend for the past two years, and it’s helped me be able to really focus on improving my mental health. I hope that you can have a similar experience come spring semester!

    As for confronting your assailant at church — be patient with yourself. If you need to step out and collect yourself, don’t hesitate to do so. I used to worry that doing that in public would draw attention to myself, but it really doesn’t most times. If you’re worried about people confronting you about taking breaks, you can always use the bathroom as a viable excuse. Sensory exercises really help me when I start to spiral in situations where I can’t get out, much like what you might be facing in services. Try to focus on the texture of the carpet or the colors in the room — something to occupy your mind in a very focused way so that it’s thinking less about confronting your assailant. Some days will be harder than others, but I believe in you. You are strong and will be able to make it through this difficult season.

    The asserting yourself question can be a little tricky. I started to be able to assert myself more as I gained self-confidence and started to worry less about what people thought about me. This isn’t to say that you should disregard the opinions of others; rather it’s a process of learning what you need and how to defend those needs. I still struggle with this a lot, especially with people who are close to me. Practice does help to make it less uncomfortable, though.

    Glad to hear back from you, and hope you have a swell rest of your week! Reach out to us anytime.

  22. Jess Volunteer

    Thank you for updating us! I’m glad to hear that validation of your situation was helpful. I totally get that – sometimes getting it out there and realizing through others that you’re not overreacting is so beneficial. We are always here for you!

    Remember to be gentle with yourself regarding being near your assailant at church. If you need to step out to the restroom or walk outside for minute, please do that. Sometimes a change of scenery and a deep breath can be life changing in those situations. Remember that your mental health and wellbeing is paramount to the work you do at the church. You can’t give your all in those positions and not take care of yourself in the process. Check in with yourself and see what you need in those moments.

    I think moving out and living with your friend would be a great way to foster your independence. This will probably be a great way to practice some of that assertiveness with your parents, as well. Assertiveness is something that takes a long time to cultivate – I know I work at that every single day! I try to remember that those I love that truly love me will appreciate my viewpoint and what I know I need to feel at my best. Finding a mantra really assisted me in this. I repeat to myself, “I am brave,” whenever I’m feeling anxious about asserting my needs. Try to find something that assists you in remembering the importance behind what you’re asserting yourself for. You are brave and you are so strong!

    In the meantime, you know we are always here if you need anything at all. Stay strong and keep fighting. <3
    -Jess

  23. grothkat8 Volunteer

    Thank you for coming back and updating us on how you are doing!

    I can relate to how you feel when it comes to being assertive and transparent. That is still something I struggle with a lot today and I think it’s also because of how my parents acted towards me growing up. I think moving in with your friend on campus is a great idea, and I think it will really help you. Moving out was the best decision I made for myself, and I feel a little bit more at peace because of it. Let us know what ends up happening whenever you’re comfortable sharing with us!

    We are always here to listen too! 🙂

    Katie

  24. kelly Day Captain

    Hey, music2799. Glad to here your friends are there for you. Living on campus sounds like a great idea. It could help you gain more independence and also have fun! I had a great time living on campus in college.
    Be gentle with yourself when you’re in these church situations. Step out if you have to. Your physical, mental, and emotional health is important, and taking care of you will ultimately help you to give more in your church positions.
    I struggle a lot with being assertive and asking for what I need. It’s so hard for me, but usually it’s worth it. The people worth keeping in your life will understand and hear you. If I have the time, I try to journal about what I want to say or at least check in with myself before I talk about it with someone else. This way I reinforce the intention I have for asserting myself and am less likely to get carried away with my emotions in the moment. It also gives me a chance to figure out how I want to assert myself in this situation, and also remind myself who I’m dealing with. Some people just like to hurt and invalidate others no matter how assertive you are. This is not your fault and it’s okay to protect yourself. Sometimes protection is asserting yourself and sometimes it’s removing yourself.

  25. Erin O'Callaghan Day Captain

    Thank you for coming back to update us, and I’m glad you’re feeling better. I definitely have struggled with asserting my needs. I’ve gotten much better at it, honestly, the further I’ve gotten from my hometown and my parents. I think if you can move out and live with your friend on campus, you should-it sounds like it would be good for you and your healing. But, I completely understand that may be really difficult, and that’s okay, too. Let us know how else we can support you-we are here for you.

    Erin

  26. Mary Volunteer

    Hi music2799,

    Thanks for reaching out! Moving to an on campus apartment sounds like something that you’re excited about! If you can make it work, that sounds like a wonderful step. It makes sense that you are feeling anxiety about being at church more with the school year starting. Being near your assailant is a difficult thing. Are you able to distance yourself from him during services? The bottom line is to do what is best for you, mentally, physically, and emotionally. Don’t put yourself through unnecessary harm if you don’t have to. Does your school have any church groups/services that you can get involved with? Perhaps if things at church start feeling too heavy, you could take a break from your church some weeks and participate there.

    As far as being assertive goes, that’s a tough skill to learn, so good work for taking that step! Validation is so important for us, and when our family or friends can’t give us that, it can make it really hard to speak up and say what you need/want. Small steps have always worked best for me. Pick one specific thing that you need to get across, a boundary that you need to set, and keep repeating it to yourself. Then do the same with others. If you are met with resistance, remind yourself why you need that specific thing. Feel free to tell them why, but ultimately, you do not need to justify your needs or boundaries to others. If you say you need something, then bottom line, you need that something. Nobody else gets to tell you what you need. Keep coming back! We’re here for you.