An Exercise in Being Assertive

I dare you to be assertive. Don’t be aggressive or selfish, just recognise that you should be getting the same respect that you give. You deserve as much recognition as other people do. By asking to be treated in a certain way, by speaking out, you aren’t being unreasonable. You’re just making yourself equal with others. No matter what people say to you or what you think about yourself, you are not worth anything less than the people around you. You deserve respect.

Be assertive and you can send a steak back when it’s overcooked. You can ask a sales assistant for a different sized shoe. More importantly, you can tell friends when they’ve upset you instead of ignoring them. You can stop disrespectful behaviour from your partner before it escalates into something worse. You can stand up for yourself, because you deserve it.

A good way to start being assertive is to figure out where your line is. Where are your boundaries? What is unacceptable behaviour?

This is a simple exercise that will help you figure it out. All you need is a pen and paper.

Think about what you do not want people to do to you. Write down a list of behaviours under this title:

“People are NOT allowed to…”

You can have separate lists for friends and romantic partners, for colleagues or family, as certain behaviour is appropriate from some people in your life and not from others.

Give yourself all the time you need. The things on your list can be tiny, like borrowing your clothes without asking, or big, like unwanted sexual contact. Whatever would make you feel small, upset, angry or embarrassed needs to go on your list.

These are your lines. Now you have a black-and-white list of things that you do NOT want in your relationships. Next time someone crosses the line, tell them! If they continue to break your boundaries, you will be able to clearly see the ways in which they are disrespecting you and do something about it.

This is being assertive: protecting yourself, teaching other people respect and taking an important step to better self-esteem.


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